Have you been told to perform Glute Strengthening Exercise? If you are some type of athlete, you must be familiar with how important our butt muscles are. In addition to playing a crucial role in almost all daily activities, they are useful in stabilizing the hips and pelvis joints. Properly trained and strong glute muscles will not only protect your hip joints and knee joints but also prevents many back injuries. And the bonus is toned glutei helps you cosmetically! I am sure you are already aware of that.
What are the glute muscles?
The group of three muscles collectively called glute muscles or butt muscles. These three muscles are Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. Out of these three, gluteus maximus is the largest and strongest muscle. It is also the most superficial than the rest two.
These muscles, mainly gluteus maximus makes most of your butt, along with some fat and superficial fascia. And therefore they are also referred to as butt muscles in layman’s term.
What do Glute muscles do?
As I mentioned earlier, glute muscles help with many functional activities. That regular sit to stand, going up and down the stairs, lowering yourself to grab something off the floor, we use glute muscles. Collectively, these muscles are active more than 50% of your gait cycle – that is normal walking. A person cannot perform running, hiking, climbing, swimming, and many other sports correctly without a strong pair of glutes. Additionally, they also help stabilize hips and pelvis and prevent dropping of a pelvis during standing or walking.
Hip extension: This is the main action of gluteus maximus. It is nothing but a fancy word for kicking your hip backward with knees straight.
Hip abduction: This is mainly done by gluteus medius and minimus. Here, you are kicking your hip sideways or away from the body.
They also help in both internal and external rotation of the hips with other muscles.
So in short, any activity that brings your hips backward or sideways can work on these muscles. I am sure you can think of at least five activities just while reading this where you kick your butt muscles into an action!
How to strengthen the glute muscles?
There are many ways to strengthen the glute muscles. The key point is to find out the baseline strength. What I mean here is, if a person is physically active, participating in some sort of sports, he or she may have stronger glutes (⅘ in manual muscle strength) compare to the person who has just gone through or getting ready to go through a hip or knee replacement.
Here are some exercises that can strengthen the glute muscles. The exercises are in order from weaker muscles to already strong muscles.
First four exercises are isolated glute muscles workouts. It is better to concentrate on those muscles only when there is a real weakness of them. And a person is unable to perform activities with proper posture. This will also ensure that we are avoiding the use of incorrect muscles and therefore prevent injury.
Hip isometrics are important during the initial stages after hip or knee surgery as well as prior to an elective surgery.
For Hip extension, lying down on your back, put a rolled towel under your affected heel, try to push down the towel while squeezing the buttocks. Hold it for 5 seconds without holding your breath, repeat it 10 times twice a day.
For Abduction isometrics, you can have a T band or Elastic band around your thighs or place a pillow between your legs. Try to push your legs outwards (as if you are trying to open your legs). Remember not to have any visible movements and no pain while doing exercises.
2. Hip Extension and Abduction in gravity eliminated plane:
Performing an exercise in gravity eliminated plane is to perform the exercise with no external resistance, not even gravity. This is helpful when a person is severely weak, in pain and unable to perform active range against gravity. Below is how to perform glute exercises in gravity eliminated plane.
Hip Extension: To perform this without the resistance of gravity, you can lie down on your side, and kick the upper leg backward with knee straight as shown in the picture below.
Abduction: In standing kick the leg outwards as shown in the picture below. No bending sideways at waist allowed. The picture below shows the hip abduction with thera band. You can use one for strengthening purpose if you have a full range of motion with no pain.
3. Hip Extension and Abduction against gravity:
So here, gravity acts as an external force, so it is kind of resistance exercises.
Hip Extension: There are two ways to perform the hip extension against gravity. One is in standing position, kicking your leg backward as shown in the picture below.
There is only little range allowed for hip extension in standing. There are higher chances of a person bending forward while trying to kick the hip backward.
So the other way to perform this is lying on your stomach (if you can get to that position) and kicking the leg backward. I like to perform this exercise in lying as there is more range available and easier to perform the correct exercises without using other body muscles.
Start in Lying on unaffected side or standing. Keep the unaffected knee bend, and gently lift the affected leg up with keeping the knee straight. Hold it for 3 to 5 seconds. Increase the hold to 10 to 15 seconds. You can also add some ankle weight to increase strength.
4. Hip Extension and Abduction with weight or Thera bands.
You are working against the gravity (as shown in exercise # 3) and using some external weights like ankle weights, thera bands, physio ball etc.
5. Whole body exercises concentrating on glutes:
There are many whole body exercises that you can perform that strengthen the glute muscles. I am not going in detail of those exercises as you can perform them in the gym, at home, as a sports activity etc. They are not really a physical therapy treatment exercises, but more of a conditioning for sports, or weight loss or toning muscles etc type of activities. The examples of these exercises are: squats, planks, yoga poses like chair pose, warrior pose, pigeon pose (and many more), stair climbing, running, bridging, and many more. This list can be very long.
So this is a complete guide to strengthen the glute muscles from grade zero to four plus. And below is the print out version these exercises.