The muscles in your bottom are the largest in your body, and chances are you spend a good amount of time sitting on them. If your strength training is not having the desired effect, or you are having back, hip or knee pain, it could be that your glutes are not working fully, meaning other muscles have to pick up the slack.
There are 3 main muscles that make up your gluteus:
- Gluteus Maximus
- Gluteus Medius
- Gluteus Minimus
The Gluteus Maximus is the largest of these muscles (and indeed the largest in the whole body!) which is primarily used for upper leg extension.
Gluteus Medius and Minimus perform similar functions, mostly to do with supporting and stabilising your body on your legs and helping to internally rotate your thigh.
So why are your Gluteus so important?
Strong glutes keep you balanced and supported, ensuring that every activity your body does is positively impacted. Without them we couldn’t walk upright!
The Glutes should all work together in synergy during any movement such as walking and running, and are essential for good posture and stability while standing and moving around. These muscles distribute load out of the joints of your back, hips, pelvis, knees and ankles, resulting in less likelihood of wear and tear & injury of these areas.
Marked weakness in the Gluteus muscles is becoming more and more common due to our lazy postural habits and increasingly sedentary lifestyles, with many of us sitting at a desk for 8+ hours per day.
In the seated position your hips are in flexion, placing the Glutes in a constant stretched position. Over time, this can change the length and force generation capacity of the muscles, as well as the resting tone. When you’re not moving for prolonged periods, the mantra “if you don’t use it you lose it” becomes applicable, and over time the Glutes get accustomed to not being used. They start to get plugged out of the brain’s neurological patterns and become a less favoured muscle. Consequently, when you then get up from the chair, your brain may start to make the decision to switch on more commonly used muscles such as your hip flexors, hamstrings or back muscles instead. This then becomes plugged into the brain as a normal way for the body to work and you start to develop bad patterns of moving and functioning.
Due to their important role in biomechanics and controlling lower limb motion while moving, weak or poorly activating Gluteal muscles can contribute to, or directly cause many issues such as lower back pain, hip pain and knee pain. Specifically, this can include hip impingement, tendinopathy, bursitis, osteoarthritis and Patellofemoral pain.
There are many exercises for the Gluteal muscles, here are two examples to isolate these muscles: