Your glutes — the minimus, medius and maximus — are the largest and strongest muscles in your body. The three muscles work together to abduct, rotate and extend the hip. Strengthening your glutes can help improve posture, as well as make sitting down, standing, picking up heavy objects and climbing stairs easier. Developing strong glutes can also improve athletic performance and decrease your risk for injuries.
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Developing strong glutes is not only essential for optimal performance, but also can decrease your risk for injury in the knees, lower back, hamstrings and groin. Weak glutes can cause an imbalance in the hip, which may lead to excessive medial rotation of the femur and lateral tracking of the patella, thus potentially causing knee pain, notes Mark Young, exercise and nutrition consultant. Strengthening your glutes decreases your risk for back injuries in exercises such as the deadlift and squat by taking some of the pressure off your lower back. Furthermore, weak glutes may also contribute to pulled muscles in your hamstring or groin.
Strong glutes are essential in almost every sport, as they are responsible for accelerating, decelerating, changing directions and creating explosive power in jumps. They are also responsible for effective hip extension. Sprinting is one of the most effective exercises for simulating the glutes, activating 234 percent more of the gluteus maximus muscle than a vertical jump. Athletes with strong glutes will be faster, more efficient and explosive in their movements than athletes with weaker glutes.
Strengthening Your Glutes
Train your glutes at least once a week using mostly compound, multi-joint exercises, such as full squats, deadlifts, lunges and stepups. These exercises mimic real-life functional movements, which can help improve daily life. Additionally, include aerobic exercise in your weekly routine. Perform at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. Hill walking or elevating the incline on your treadmill or elliptical machine will help strengthen the glutes while burning fat. Intermediate or advanced trainees can replace one to three moderate-intensity aerobic sessions with high-intensity sprinting sessions to help build and strengthen the glutes.
Begin with a five- to 10-minute aerobic warmup on the treadmill, bike or elliptical machine. Complete one or two warmup sets of full barbell squats using a light to moderate weight. Next, increase the weight on the barbell to 65 percent to 75 percent of your one-rep maximum, and complete three sets of eight to 12 reps of full barbell squats in which your hips drop down below parallel to activate the glutes. Next, perform three sets of eight to 12 reps of straight leg deadlifts, hack squats, bench step-ups and walking lunges, taking long strides to place more emphasis on the glutes.
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