For many, the glutes are an important asset when it comes to beachside beauty or looking good in jeans, but these muscles actually serve a greater purpose when it comes to balance and remaining injury-free. When matched with a healthy diet, regular strength training and the right swim suit the gluteals will be primed for both function and fashion all year long.
The gluteals (or glutes) are made up of three muscles that surround the posterior and lateral aspect of the hip joint.
Collectively, the three muscles that make up this region, gluteus minimus, medius and maximus serve as hip external rotators (turning the toes outward from the hip), lateral abductors (moving the thigh away from the center of the body) and hip extensors (moving the leg backward behind the body). All of these actions are important for daily activities such as walking, sitting, standing, moving sideways and, of course, strutting your stuff down the beach. When the glutes are weak, however, from poor posture or inadequate usage, other parts of the body begin to compensate for the actions that these strong muscles are meant to accomplish. For example, when the gluteus medius is unable to fully contract and abduct the leg, the body may compensate by dropping the opposite hip and using the obliques and other back muscles to raise the leg. Over time, this may cause muscle imbalance and undo stress to the trunk and spine, which can lead to injury.
Here are a few exercises to add to your routine that can help lift and strengthen your glutes.
Mule Kick with Resistance Band
Assume a table-top position and place the looped end of a SPRI band around one foot. Hold onto the handles and keep the trunk engaged as you extend the foot up and back behind the glute. Don’t allow the hips shift and be sure to keep the core stable.
Lateral Up and Overs
Face sideways to a bench or step at knee height and place one foot on top. Using an explosive movement, push yourself over to the other side of the bench landing softly with the opposite foot now atop the bench. Quickly repeat back and forth, being sure to always land softly and with control.
Speed Band Skater Holds
Secure a band to a stable surface and loop it around the waist. Walk out far enough so there is sufficient tension on the band to keep it straight. From a single-leg crouched position, push laterally landing farther away from the anchor point and hold on the outside leg. Push back to the starting position and hold. Maintain the balance at each position before pushing to the other side. For more of a caloric burn, push off more quickly, but stay balanced.
Single-leg Hamstring Curl and Press
Lie on your back with one foot on the top of an exercise ball. Raise the other foot straight up in the air as if putting a footprint on the ceiling. Raise the hips off the ground, bend the knee and curl the ball inward, then push the top foot downward on the ball to raise the hips higher in the air. Keep the other leg fully extending upward toward the ceiling.
Banded Squat Hops
Place a mini band around the thighs and assume a squat position. Quickly hop the legs inward to a modified chair pose, and then quickly hop back out again, making sure to keep the glutes engaged so the knees track outward, not inward.
Single-leg Squat Jumps
Begin in a single-leg stance and then drop one leg back into a running position. Explosively bring the knee forward as you hop off the ground landing on the same leg and dropping back into a single-leg running stance. Use the power of the glutes to lift yourself off the ground and regain your balance.