Before working on any muscle, it is healthy to remember to work not just on its strength and size, but also its mobility and range. A large shoulder is useless if it can’t move well and a sculpted back is only worth vanity if it can’t bend. It works the other way too: while working only on flexibility doesn’t have any cons, adding strength training to a routine will benefit your muscles, especially ones which get overused due to our lifestyle, like the glutes.
The word glutes itself originates from the Latin version of the Greek word ‘gloutos’ which means ‘buttock’. But to use more anatomical terminology, the muscle group consists of the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and gluteus maximus. This is not to be mistaken with hips, which are located at the front, where the thigh bone meets the pelvis. But hips and glutes work in tandem when it comes to bearing weight, stability, and range of motion. Which is why they need to be flexible, and strong as well. It is also why you need to stretch your hip flexor as much as you need to do weighted glute bridges.
“[Having strong glutes] means that the hip flexors take ‘less of the strain’ in a movement, and hip tightness can often cause lower back pain,” says England-based sports scientist and pilates instructor Esther Goldsmith in a Stylist article called Benefits Of Strong Glutes.
While not limited to just these, it seems there are two major motivations to work on glute strengthening. The first one is aesthetic and toned glutes. The second motivation is avoiding back pain: something that ails especially those who spend a lot of time sitting on their butt, which is most of us. It’s a vicious circle and the only way out is to train your glutes.
A research on the effects of gluteus muscle strengthening exercises published in the Journal Of Physical Therapy Science says that the “…clinical application of exercise in this study showed that lumbar segmental stabilization exercise plus exercise to strengthen the muscles of the gluteus resulted in a greater decrease in low back pain disability index and increase in lumbar muscle strength and balance ability.”
The other advantages are reduced knee pain and the ability to generate more power during workouts. “Strengthening the glutes helps in improving performance, for instance it helps in accelerating the explosive power which generates more force. Also it helps in improving your speed. So it's very important to activate the glutes before workout and strengthen them if you want to get stronger,” says fitness trainer Saloni Ahvad of Multifit Pune.
Generating more power from the glutes also leads to workouts being easier on the knees. “Your gluteal muscles create pelvic stability. For example, if you twist your ankle, you can also have imbalances at the knee and further up the leg. The same thing can happen if instability begins at the hip, leading to excessive force on the knee and ankle. That can mean knee pain or discomfort,” writes physical therapist Amy Koch in an article in Bestcare.org on the benefits of strong glutes.
Glute strengthening can be achieved with a mix of bodyweight, resistance band, and weight training. It is a commitment to work on them, but never boring. Glute training will make you focus on hip extension and abduction, external rotation, and even single leg balance. It should contain holds, explosive reps, slow concentration exercises and a flurry of exercises to work on all the muscle fibers.
Ahvad suggests ten specific workouts which should be a part of your exercise regimen for a stronger and bigger butt. These are: Barbell hip thrust, the sumo dead-lift, barbell glute bridges, squats, loop band lateral walk, clam shells, single leg glute bridges, single leg hip thrusters, sumo squats and trap bar dead-lifts.
Balance these out with hip mobility work so that you maintain muscle quality and the ability to move. Over a period of time you will learn to differentiate between exercises that work on strength: how much force a muscle and joint are able to produce, and mobility: how a joint moves. Manchester-based gymnastic trainer Steve Dawson explains it even better in his 2018 blogpost What’s More Important Strength Or Mobility? “You should view your strength as the lock, and your mobility as the key. Put them both together and the possibilities it will unlock are endless.”
Pulasta Dhar is a football commentator and writer.