Glutes! The Powerhouse Muscles
What are the glutes? Popularised in the early 90’s by Sir Mix-a-Lot’s educational song; the glutes are the muscles of your butt-cheeks and are made up of three muscles:
The glutes are capable of producing a lot of force and are an important muscle group for everyday life, sports performance and lower back health.
What do the glutes do?
The glutes are responsible for hip extension, abduction and external rotation.
And what does that mean?
It means the glutes play a major role in things like stair climbing, sprinting, jumping, accelerating, decelerating, squatting, sidestepping and dancing… they also help control and stabilize the ‘reverse’ of some of those movements.
And what does reverse dancing look like?
Who needs strong glutes?
The glutes help you sit down, stand up and climb stairs.
Weak or under-active glutes can also cause lower back pain and this is often associated with sleepy glutes.
If the Glutes Switch off, Bad Things Happen
'Sleepy glute syndrome' is common in people who sit down for long periods of time. Prolonged sitting causes the hip flexors to become short and tight and gives the glutes no reason to be active, so they switch off.
Over a number of months and years this can lead to postural problems and is often a cause of lower back pain.
The glutes are a key muscle group for sporting success. Most sports involve actions that require the glutes to either produce force, or control movement...
Sprinters and runners need strong glutes to propel themselves forward.
Mixed martial artists will use their glutes to flip an opponent who is on top of them.
Swimmers recruit the glutes during the various swimming strokes.
When kicking a ball, or opponent, the glutes are used during the ‘backswing’ portion of the kick and to stabilise the standing leg.
So, as you can see, the glutes are quite important in everyday life and in an athletic context.
What exercises work the glutes?
Loads! Basically any exercise or movement that involves squatting, stepping, hip hinging, thrusting, jumping or sprinting; these all recruit the glutes to varying degrees.
Deadlifts and squats are a good start. These are whole body movements in which the glutes play a major role. Reverse lunges, rear foot elevated split squats and step ups are excellent unilateral (single leg) exercises that the glutes are heavily involved in.
Glute bridges and hip thrusts are great exercises if you really want to home in on the glutes; there are several different types of hip thrusts: bodyweight hip thrusts and single leg hip thrusts are a good start, banded hip thrusts provide a bit of resistance and barbell hip thrusts allow you to load up the movement with weight.
There are a couple of other really good glute strengthening exercises, but these require special equipment. 'Reverse hyper machines' and 'glute ham developers' are great tools for targeting the glutes (as well as the hamstrings and lower back) without directly loading the spine; unfortunately these pieces of equipment are rarely seen in gyms.
Strong glutes lead to strong performances in sport and everyday life.