Just because your doctor prescribes you a hearty dose of bed rest doesn’t mean your glutes have to spend those days — or even weeks — out of commission. All it takes is a little know-how, and you can keep your all-important butt muscles from growing weak and inactive — without compromising your rest and recovery.
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In fact, a 2009 report published in the journal Critical Care Medicine stated that even a little bit of exercise can help reduce the negative effects of bed rest. That could mean less time actually on bed rest and a speedier recovery.
So keep these exercises handy, and pull them out of your back pocket any time you feel your glutes getting lazy. But you should be sure to check with your doctor before attempting any exercise while on bed rest.
1. Static Glute Hold
Recommended by the Royal Berkshire Hospital, this static glute exercise will teach you how to engage your butt muscles even while the rest of your body is immobile.
HOW TO DO IT: While in bed, lie on your back and stretch your legs out straight. Keeping your lower back flat on the bed, tense your glutes and hold for five seconds. Then, relax your glutes. Perform this exercise three times per day for a total of 10 reps.
2. Lying Hip Abduction
This exercise, also provided by the Royal Berkshire Hospital, fires up the medial glutes — the muscles responsible for moving your legs away from your body — while you lie comfortably on your bed.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your legs stretched out straight. Keeping both legs straight and toes pointed toward the ceiling, move one leg out to the side as far as you’re able. Then, return to starting position. Perform this exercise three times a day for a total of 10 reps on each leg.
3. Hip Bridge
Hit your gluteus maximus (a.k.a. your biggest butt muscle) with the hip bridge, recommended by the University of Washington Medical Center. Lifting your hips off the bed requires greater strength than the static glute hold (see #1), but both are helpful for keeping your glutes strong and engaged while on bed rest.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the bed. Lift your hips off the bed and squeeze your glutes at the top. Slowly lower your hips back down to the bed. Perform this exercise three times per day for a total of 10 reps.
4. Side-Lying Leg Raise
Give your medial glutes a workout with side-lying leg raises. This move is similar to the hip abduction, but the fact that you can’t tap your heel on the bed as you move your leg laterally takes this exercise up a notch in difficulty.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your side with your hips stacked on top of each other. Flex your top foot so your toe is pointing forward. Lift your top leg as far as you can while keeping your heel slightly behind your body and your toes pointing forward. Bend your bottom knee if you need extra stability. Slowly lower your top leg to return to start. Perform this exercise three times per day for a total of 10 reps per leg.
Read more: Exercises That Build the Glutes