Your glutes are the largest and strongest group of muscles in your body. Consisting of the gluteus maximus, gluteus midius, and gluteus minimus, a well-developed posterior is a sort-after fitness goal for many nowadays.
Your gluteal muscles, along with your hamstrings (biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranisus) work together to extend, rotate and abduct the hip. They also help to stablise the pelvis when walking, running and climbing.
Although most people will work their glutes for aesthetic reasons, having strong, developed muscles in this region also has a host of fitness benefits you may be unaware of. Here are a few of the benefits to building strong glutes.
1. Improved Posture
Many of us spend much of our days sitting down and so it’s common to suffer from poor posture, causing us to slouch. This in turn leads to tight, shortened hip flexors, over-stretched hip extensors and weak glutes that forget how to activate properly. In addition, weakness in this area often leads to forward-tilting hips which push the abdomen out making it look like you have a ‘gut’, even if you have little body fat.
2. Injury Prevention
The glutes are one of the main supporters of the low back. If they’re weak they may not be able to perform their main function which is to extend the hip. Weak or underdeveloped glutes can lead to your latissimus dorsi (lower back muscles) overcompensating, pulling the torso and shoulders out of their correct position.
By the same token, if your hip extensors are stronger than your glutes they can pull your pelvis into unnatural alignment which can cause both poor posture and pain. Basically if your glutes aren’t developed enough to perform the function their supposed to, the body will find other muscles to take over – usually ones not designed for the job – and they can get stressed. This can lead to knee, lower back, hamstring and groin injury.
3. Athletic Performance
As well as decreasing your risk of injury, well-developed glutes can help improve overall athletic performance as they’re responsible for accelerating, changing direction, decelerating, and creating explosive power when jumping.
High performance sports that involve running, jumping, kicking and quick movement require strong glutes and hip extensors in order to get the best results. The stronger they are the faster and more explosive your movements will be compared to those with weaker muscles.
4. Getting Rid Of Back Pain
The glutes play a key role in relieving some of the stress and pressure from the lower back as they help control the movement of the pelvis, hips, legs and torso. They also help slow down hip flexion which helps counter the downward pull of gravity, helping to prevent the lumbar spine from rounding forward. All this means your lower back bears less of the brunt of any body motion.
5. Increased Bone Density
A slightly more tenuous link to the benefits of working your glutes, but valid all the same, is bone density. Our bone density peaks between five and ten years after we reach skeletal maturity, and then, from as early as 30 years old, old and damaged bone is reabsorbed faster than new bone can be formed leading to an increased risk of osteopenia (low bone density) and osteoporosis (progressive bone disease).
Exercises that place mechanical stress on the bones, including lower body weight training, such as the glutes and hamstrings, as well as running and yoga, can postpone and even reverse the effects of age-related bone-density loss. So exercises intended to strengthen the glutes can have a positive knock-on effect on bone health!
6. Accelerated Fat Loss And Maintenance
To lose fat we need to be in a caloric deficit so we burn more calories than we consume. Unlike fatty tissue, muscle is more metabolically active which means that even when we’re not working out, our muscles will still burn calories from stored fat. Studies suggest that for every pound of muscle built, the body will burn an extra 50 calories a day.
Considering the glutes and hamstrings are two of the largest muscle groups, they have vast potential to contribute to fat loss. By incorporating a variety of squats, lunges and other compound lifts in your strength training routine, you can build muscle, torch fat, and then continue to burn calories for 24 to 48 hours afterwards.
How To Develop Your Glutes
There are many exercises you can incorporate into your workout to help build up your glutes. Whilst squats tend to be the go-to, there are a host of others just as effective.
Three other exercises, well-regarded for lighting up the posterior muscles, include the barbell hip thrust, the B-stance hip thrust and the dumbbell frog pump. These moves are easy to learn, progressively overload over time and demand high levels of glute activation. Lower body exercises such as these tend to incorporate much more than one muscle group meaning a greater level of muscle activation and energy, leading to increased calorie burn – so a win-win if you’re also looking to decrease, or maintain, body fat!
Having a well-developed, pert rear looks great but the benefits to building strong glutes go so much deeper than just aesthetics. Strong glutes are an integral part of your body’s health and play a significant role in how efficiently your body moves, as well as helping to limit the amount of stress you put on your lower back.
Don’t overlook the glutes when working out. Add some squats, hip thrusts and frog pumps to your routine as part of a lower body routine – not only will they help make your rear end more perky, you’ll notice a significant difference in the effectiveness of your movements. Strong glutes will help to provide more core stability and better posture – all key in helping to stay healthy and help prevent injury.
I’ve recently tried out a glute-building program (yes you heard that right!) called ‘Unlock Your Glutes’. It helps to dispel some of the myths around building your glutes, goes into the science behind why they’re such important muscles, and lays out a laser-focused program that purely targets the glute muscles and nothing else to help build strong, powerful muscles within 30 days. A tall-order you might think, however you might find my review surprising.
What are your favourite glute building exercises? Do you have a hard time training this area? Comment underneath and let me know.