The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles which make up the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The gluteal muscles are an important part of the body and are critical to keep strong if you wish to function and move well. Strong gluteal muscles help with your balance and things such as climbing stairs, walking up hills, as well as improving running and walking speeds.
Strong gluteal muscles also help to maintain the health and stability of your hip, knee, and ankle joints as well as the lower back.
Strength is very important but stretching the gluteal muscles to allow the hip and lower back to move freely is equally valuable.
If your gluteal muscles are weak or tight, they can lead to a number of problems that manifest over a number of years requiring a prolonged course of rehabilitation.
Weakness of the gluteal muscles can occur easily from an accident or trauma years earlier that only become evident later on. Injuring your ankle or knee – twisting of the knee or spraining your ankle can set off a walking pattern that over a period of time leads to gluteal weakness on the same side. It may be as simple as not weight bearing or walking properly on the injured side for a number of months that leads to the gluteal weakness. You can also experience gluteal weakness from prolonged sitting – simply not using them enough! If unchecked gluteal weakness can be the precursor to hip (trochanteric) bursitis.
Conversely tightness of the gluteal muscles can be a problem. If your gluteal muscles are tight, the hip becomes stiff and the function of the lower back is affected often leading to lower back pain.
Three exercises you can do to improve the strength and mobility of your gluteal muscles.
- Gluteal stretch in sitting.
Summary: In sitting, place one ankle on the thigh above the other knee and lean your trunk forward from the hips.
- Start in a seated position.
- Lift one leg so the ankle is resting on the thigh just above the opposite knee.
- Lean your trunk forward from the hip keeping your back straight to feel the stretch in the buttock on the side of the bent knee.
- Hold this position for 20 –30 seconds.
- Repeat on the other side.
Try this before and after you exercise. As an alternative, this can also be done in a standing position.
Summary: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your buttock muscles and lift your hips high off the floor.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor hip-width apart and your arms by your sides.
- Tighten your buttock muscles and lift your hips up off the floor. Push through your heels and keep your hips high and level throughout the movement.
- Hold this position then lower your hips and buttocks onto the floor, back to the starting position.
- Repeat x10.
Summary: Standing with feet hip-width apart and arms stretched out in front, bend at the hips and knees into a squat position so your thighs are horizontal with the floor. Return to standing.
- Stand upright, feet hip-width apart and arms outstretched in front of you.
- Bend your knees and hips, leaning your chest forwards as though you are about to sit and lower your thighs to be horizontal with the floor. Bend from the hips, not the back.
- Keep the knee in line with your foot, your weight on your heels, your back straight and look ahead. Do not allow your knees to travel in front of your toes.
- At the bottom of the squat, tense your buttocks, and return to standing upright.
- Repeat x 10.