Many people are unaware, but the glutes are the largest and strongest group of muscles in your body. The gluteals (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus) and the hamstrings (biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus) work together to extend, rotate and abduct the hip. They also contribute to stabilization of the pelvis, in particular during walking, running and climbing.
A well-trained butt isn’t just nice to look at. Strong glutes and hamstrings protect against injury, enhance athletic performance and contribute to optimizing body composition! Here’s how.
5 Reasons to work on your Glutes
1. Better posture
As a consequence of “sitting disease”, many of us suffer from poor posture. Tight, shortened hip flexors, weak, over-stretched hip extensors and glutes that ‘forget’ how to activate properly all contribute to the most commonly observed postural deviations: swayback and kyphosis-lordosis.
Try adding squats, lunges and dead lifts to your current strength training routine, making sure to keep good pelvic alignment to avoid tight hip flexors!
2. Improved athletic performance
The gluteus maximus is capable of generating an enormous amount of power. This power can be translated into sports-specific speed, acceleration, vertical jump, and endurance. Training the hips to extend powerfully and propel the body forwards is key to improving your ability to run, jump, and cycle faster, harder, and longer. Try adding in a day or two of lower body strength training on days when you’re not scheduled for a long run or cycle. And don’t forget to stretch and foam roll afterwards to maintain hip mobility and flexibility. My favourite hip opener? The 90/90 hip stretch.
3. Pain reduction and injury prevention
Ever get lower back fatigue when performing deadlifts, or hip extensions? Strong glutes support the lower back. When the glutes aren’t strong enough to perform their hip extension function, muscles that weren’t designed for the job will take over. Over time, these ‘helper’ muscles may become overstressed, resulting in pain and compression in the lumbar spine, hips and knees.
Because the glutes are also hip stabilizers, weak gluteal muscles can result in poor alignment of the entire lower body, leaving you prone to injuries including Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains and tears and iliotibial band irritation or “ITB syndrome”.
Protect your hips, knees and ankles by strengthening your glutes with hip thrusts, single leg dead lifts and weighted clam shells.
4. Fat loss and fat loss maintenance
Fat loss requires a daily caloric deficit. Burn more calories than you consume and you’ll lose fat (more or less). Unlike adipose tissue, muscle is metabolically active, meaning that even when you’re not working out, your muscles will burn calories from stored fat. Studies suggest that for every pound of muscle you build, your body will burn an extra 50 calories per day.
Given that the glutes and hamstrings are two of the largest muscle groups in the body, their potential contribution to fat loss is not to be underestimated. Try incorporating a variety of squats and lunges in a whole-body-compound-lift style circuit to build muscle, torch fat and continue burning calories for 24 to 48 hours after your workout is over.
5. Increased bone density
Bone density is known to peak somewhere between 5 and 10 years after we reach skeletal maturity. Starting as early as the age of 30, old and damaged bone is deteriorates faster than new bone is formed resulting in the increased risk of
Osteopaenia (lower than normal bone density) and osteoporosis (a progressive bone disease). Exercises that place mechanical stress on the bones, including lower body weight training, running and some forms of yoga, can postpone and even reverse the effects of age-related bone-density loss. The earlier you start incorporating them in your training, the greater their potential benefits.