GLUTE WEEK: 6 Movements to Strengthen Your Weak Glutes
Glute WEEK — That means we are focusing on your WEAK glutes!
It is not an exaggeration to say that glutes are the new abs. From the Kardashians to hashtags like #humpday and the #belfie (butt selfie) and the countless Instagram profiles that are just pictures of butts in different locations, glutes are here to stay! So let's get a better understanding of why we see so much dysfunction with them.
Glute Musculature and Function
This is what most of us think of when we think of butts. It is the largest muscle in the body and is comprised of both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, making it capable of explosive movements (sprinting) at 100% or posture based movements (standing) closer to 10%.
Functions of the Gluteus Maximus
- Thigh extension
- Thigh external rotation
- Thigh abduction (away from the body)
- Thigh adduction (toward the body)
Imagine you're wearing jeans, the glute medius muscle looks kind of like a bike seat. Starting with its widest point around the top of the outer back pocket, it then narrows down towards the seam of your pants. Got it?
Functions of the Glute Medius
- Abduction (lifting leg away from the body)
- Internal rotation of the hip
- Stabilizer when shifting weight
- Any single-legged movement
Basically, the minimus is just a little version of the medius. Residing underneath the glute medius, it is responsible for the same functions and is a synergist to the glute med and tensor fasciae latae (TFL) all of which are responsible for the abduction and internal rotation of the hip.
Why Your Glutes Are Weak
You could sit down with a physiotherapist, personal trainer or any movement professional for that matter, providing them a complete history and symptom list, and they still wouldn't be able to tell you the exact cause of your glute weakness.
What that means is the problem is complex! Anyone can have weakness in their glutes, and for a number of reasons, since it's such a complicated group of muscles responsible for doing so much.
Whether through sports or habit, humans have a good and a bad side when it comes to certain muscle groups.
Take kicking a soccer ball; the player prefers to kick with their right leg, which means they will be standing on their left leg. In all likelihood, the left glute musculature would be stronger than the right, even though the player would say that their right leg is their dominant one, see how this can get confusing? Your good side could actually be the weaker side.
Another way an asymmetry can develop is through habits, including something as simple as standing. Stand long enough, and you will inevitably shift your weight to one side for relief, we usually do this to one side more than the other. Another example would be only crossing one leg over the other when you sit; these both have the potential to create asymmetries which may lead to more severe imbalances.
Unlike the other muscle groups that get used throughout normal life, for example, the quadriceps when you go from sitting to standing or the abdominals when you sit up in bed, the glutes typically get left behind. The problem is two-fold however because we are also sitting on them for hours on end. So not only are they not being used, but our brains are forgetting how to communicate with them as they atrophy in our office chairs.
If you have ever suffered a lower-body injury that impacted how you walk or even stand, it most likely caused glute inhibition. Broken toe, torn groin, back injury? All of these will create compensatory movement patterns while the injury heals, but we never spend time undoing those patterns leading to problems down the road.
Symptoms of Weak Glutes
You may feel soreness or tightness in the buttocks, pain in the hips, tight hip flexors, low back pain, tight hamstrings, knee pain, or even pelvic instability. Basically, the glutes can present a number of problems because of their many roles!
We severely take our glutes for granted because of this. From walking and running, going up and down stairs, or anything having to do with rotation, weakness can manifest in many different areas. However, the biggest issue stemming from weak glute muscles is posture.
If your glutes are weak you are more likely to have less control over the positioning of your pelvis. If your hips are too tilted this will cause issues up and downstream, pain at the knee or ankles as well as the back, shoulder, and neck. Fix the glutes, align the pelvis and many problems go away on their own.
See why the glutes are so important!?
The most common areas associated with pain from having weak glutes include:
- Mid-Low Back
- Pelvis (Si Joint)
- Hips (Sciatica)
A mentioned above, there can be many causes of weak glutes. Let's keep going with our soccer player and habitual leg crosser.
So we know that the soccer player has a strong left glute and weaker right glute. So the next course of action would be to strengthen the right glute. The leg crosser is a little more complicated, let's say she doesn't exercise, so both glutes are probably weak, but because of her constant cross legging, one hip is going to be tighter than the other. So, in this case, we will need to strengthen both glutes, but one will probably require more stretching than the other.
We are human beings, not textbooks so fixing glute weakness will always be a custom job. Even a professional is going to have to learn a lot about you and your history, so why not just skip that step and begin learning how to fix yourself?
How to Fix Your Weak Glutes
Try some of these movements to help the process of fixing your weak glutes.
So Now What?
The glutes are just a set of muscles that, if weakened, can cause imbalances all over your body. You may need to strengthen or stretch your glute muscles for temporary relief, but remember that the body works together. It’s a machine that needs all the parts to work correctly for maximum performance and longevity. The MoveU program builds off the concept that every part of the body is connected.
If your glutes are giving you trouble, then, of course, you’ll want to start there for that relief. But remember the MoveU Program is designed to help you develop your strength throughout your entire body.
Written by David Schroer