Sure thing – firm, sculpted bum catches everyone’s attention and who wouldn’t want tight, strong buttocks to fill up their favourite pair of jeans… It seems that a nicely shaped backside keeps getting increasingly more attention also in the media with every other magazine offering tips how to improve the look of your bottom and many celebrities being praised for their toned backsides, etc. But there’s more to it than the good looks. The glutes (muscles which make up the buttocks) are the strongest and most powerful muscles in the human body and are very important in keeping you in good health.
The glutes consist of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medium, and gluteus minimus. They are responsible for multiple joint actions and movements: extension of the hip (pulling the thigh behind you), rotation of the hip, abduction of the hip (when you move leg away from the centre of body to the side) and also tilt the pelvis. Because of today’s sedentary lifestyle, though, they are often weak, underworked and underdeveloped. Let me talk you through the benefits of making this part of your body stronger.
Improved posture and balance.
The glutes are critical to good posture and balance. If they are weak, the opposing muscles (hip flexors and spinal erectors) take over and pull the pelvis and tilting it forward while pushing the butt back, leading to exaggerated lumbar curve and a condition called hyperlordosis which can cause lower back pain. Strengthening the glutes will counter the pull from the hip flexors and bring the hips into proper alignment, improving posture across the whole body.
Ease back pain.
One of the reasons of lower back pain is rounding the back excessively when bending or lifting, instead of keeping neutral spine. This is often caused by weak glutes and forces back muscles to pick up the slack and work extra hard. This extra output can lead to various tears in the surrounding muscles and cause pain. Strengthening bum muscles prevents that form happening and provides relief to back pain.
Eliminate knee pain.
Glutes play critical part in hip movement in an array of movement patterns, such as stepping, jumping, landing, squatting, walking, and running. Strong glutes ensure that the knees track properly over the toes and absorb more force, relieving the pressure from the knee joints. If they are weak and dysfunctional, the load that they are supposed to carry spreads to other muscles and joints (knees), which over time can lead to knee pain.
Glutes, together with abs and back muscles, form the core and act as stabilisers for movement and protect the spine and surrounding muscles from injury in static and dynamic movements. Every day activities, such as walking, standing up from a chair, climbing stairs, picking up objects off the floor, and carrying objects across the room, require functional spinal and gluteal muscles. If they are weak, there is a risk of poor alignment of the entire lower body and injuries such as shin splints, Achilles tendonitis, sprains and tears.
Improve performance in sports.
Scientific research proves that athletes with strong gluteal muscles perform better in almost every sport than those with weaker glutes. They can increase the speed, acceleration, vertical distance (ability to jump), endurance and improve explosive power.
I know, strength training isn’t the first thing that comes to your mind when thinking about weight loss. But it should be. It is true that cardio workouts burn more calories, but building lean muscle can help burn a few extra calories while at rest. Especially effective are the exercises that involve multiple muscle groups and multiple joints and stress more muscle fibres. And strength training exercises that are most effective for building strong glutes: squats, lunges, step ups, and deadlifts, are all compound exercises that engage all major muscle groups – and that also includes legs, abdominal and back muscles. Toned butt, flat belly, strong legs and less fat? Yep – let’s do some squats!
My favourite (read most effective, not the easiest) butt exercises
- Kneel on all fours and extend your left leg sideways, tilting your head and body to the left.
- Lift your leg off the floor to hip level, knee bent
- Straighten your knee to perform a kicking move. Bend and bring back to the starting position.
- Complete one set and repeat on the right leg.
- Add a loop band placed on your thighs for increased difficulty and progression.
Single-glute bridge on stability ball (or chair)
- Lie on the floor with a stability ball (or chair) in front of you.
- Place your hands by your sides with your palms turned down, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
- Bend your knees and place your feet on the stability ball (or chair-just the edge).
- Lift your left foot so that your leg is straight and your knees are together.
- Keeping your hips level and your right foot on the ball (edge of the chair), raise your bottom off the floor. Slowly lower it towards the floor, pause and push your hips back up into the air.
- Switch legs and repeat.
Side-lying hip raise
- Lie in a straight line on your left side.
- Place your elbow directly underneath your left shoulder and place the hand of the other arm on the hip.
- Making sure that the body is in a straight line from the shoulders to the knees, your left knee bent, lift your hips off the floor, but keeping left knee on the floor and your right leg straight in the air.
- Lower yourself to starting position.
- Complete one set before repeating on the other side.
Bulgarian split squat
- Stand in front of a step, stair, table, stool, chair or weight bench. Reach back with one foot, resting the top of the foot on the top of the surface.
- With an upright trunk (or a slight forward lean), bend the front knee and sink the knee of the rear leg down and slightly back while trying to keep most of the body weight on the front leg.
- Lower your body until the back knee almost touches the ground. Rise to starting position.
- Complete one set before repeating on the other side.
- Add weight (grab dumbbells) for harder variation.
Reaching single-leg Romanian deadlift with knee raise
- Stand on your left foot.
- Making sure that the right leg stays in line with the torso, bend over at the waist while shifting the weight back and looking down. Keep the chest up and right leg parallel to the floor. Reach your arms right forward in front of you.
- Keeping your back straight, hold this position for a moment.
- Reverse the motion back your starting position, moving in one piece as you return to standing upright resting the right foot on the floor.
- Complete one set before switching sides.
- When you’ve mastered the move, incorporate light dumbbells to increase the difficulty.
For more exercises, check out this video from Women’s Health: Booty Moves You Can Do Anywhere.