The Glutes. Whether you’re at the gym or the beach, few muscle groups get more attention. And deservedly so.
The gluteus maximus is the largest, strongest and most visible muscle in the lower body. It connects the pelvis to the thigh and provides power and support for the trunk and the spine, allowing our bodies to bend, lift, jump, run… and pretty much every other activity you can think of.
Yet, despite the many essential functions the glutes provide – most people neglect to train them correctly. As a result, their glutes become weak.
To be fair, most people believe they train their glutes the right way. Athletes, coaches and PTs have long recognized the value of powerful glutes and placed an emphasis on making them bigger and stronger. As a result, nearly every training regimen includes some form of squats, deadlifts and lunges, the perceived holy triumvirate of accepted glute exercises.
Unfortunately, nearly every training regimen is doing it wrong.
It’s not that these popular exercises don’t have some value. They do. But while maxing out on the squat rack might make your glutes sore, it won’t do much to effectively strengthen your actual muscles. The quads, hamstrings and erector spine bear most of the weight and thus, reap the benefits.
The fact is that to truly strengthen the glutes, you have to activate them and then maximize their contraction. And this can truly only be achieved by bent-leg hyperextension exercises. To be clear — there’s no reason to stop doing squats, lunges or deadlifts. These are great, proven exercises. But if you want really strong glutes, try the exercises below, designed to isolate these important muscles and focus on their function.
At Integrative Spine & Sports Medicine Practice in NYC, we show people how to train different parts of their body at home.
Add these glute exercises you can do at home to your regimen and in a matter of weeks, your glutes will be stronger and sexier, resulting in increased stability and improved performance. Start by using only your bodyweight and increase weight slowly, focused on flexibility and proper form. As always, play it safe and go slow to maximize efficiency and avoid injury.
1. Hip Flexor Stretches
- Begin in a kneeling position with your back leg extended behind you.
- Keeping your body upright and your core engaged, drive your hip forward, pressing the back knee into the ground.
- Squeeze your glutes as hard as you can.
- Hold for 5 seconds, then return to the start and repeat for 10 reps.
- If necessary, hold a stick or foam roller in front of you for balance.
2. Glute Bridges
- Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground.
- Bend your elbow so that your upper arm is flat.
- Drive through your heels, lifting your hips as high as possible, keeping your belly button in and upper back on the ground.
- Squeeze your glutes and hold for 2-5 seconds.
- Lower the buttocks to the ground and repeat for 3 sets of 10 reps.
3. Bird Dogs
- Begin on your hands and knees, facing the ground.
- Align your hands beneath your shoulders and keep your knees under your hips.
- Keeping your head, neck and back straight, slowly raise your right hand and your left leg, forming a straight line.
- Hold for 2 seconds then lower to the starting position for 10 reps.
- Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
4. Lying Side Abductions
- Lie on your side with your legs straight and your feet stacked.
- Engage your abs and slowly lift your upper leg.
- Keeping the knees and hips straight, raise the leg until it reaches 45 degrees.
- Squeeze the glutes and hold 2 seconds, then lower the leg.
- Complete 3 sets of 10 reps for each side.
5. Fire Hydrants
- Begin on all fours, with hands beneath your shoulders and knees below your hips.
- Keep your neck and head straight with your back parallel to the floor.
- Keeping your knee bent, slowly raise your right leg to the side, lifting it as high as you can.
- Squeeze your glutes, hold 2 seconds then lower your knee back to the ground.
- Complete 3 sets of 10 reps with each leg.