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Glutes 101: Best Exercises for Your Gluteus Maximus

Published March 12, 2019 (Revised: July 15, 2019)
<article> <section> <p>Sir Mix-A-Lot and his 90s jam aren’t the only ones advocating that a strong butt does a body good. The muscles in your glutes—the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus—are three of the most important muscles in your body. Without a strong butt, we’re at risk for injury, <a target="_blank" href="">lower back pain</a>, and decreased performance when we work out.</p> <p>Did you know that most people’s glutes aren’t activated? Said another way, it’s like your glutes are asleep. Your body prefers using your quadricep muscles (front of the thigh) to do all the hard work. And this isn’t good. For your hips to stay healthy, the back of your legs should be just as strong as the front.</p> <p>In this guide, we’ll look at the best gluteus maximus exercises you can do from the comfort of your home as well as dive into the reasons you need a strong, ‘awake’ set of butt muscles.</p> <p>This is Introduction to Glutes 101; we’re your professor. And no, that isn’t the last butt joke we’ll make.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="gluteus-maximus-0104"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Is the Gluteus Maximus and What Does It Do?</header> <p>The gluteus maximus is one of three muscles in your butt. The other two are the gluteus minimus and gluteus medius. As you can see from the image above, the gluteus maximus is the largest of the three muscles. All three gluteal muscles play a role in proper movement (<a target="_blank" href="">walking</a>, running) and certain exercises, too.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="gluteus-minimus-0104"> </picture> <p>For example, the gluteal muscles (along with your hips and other muscles in the legs) are used during squats, lunges, and even planks. Squats and lunges are particularly good for working your glutes, but also help keep your core tight for other exercises (sometimes even upper body ones). You’ll sometimes hear Coach Tyler say to “squeeze your belly and your butt.” Doing so braces your core muscles so you can safely perform <a target="_blank" href="">full-body exercises</a>.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="gluteus-medius-0104"> </picture> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Why Are Glute Muscles Important?</header> <p>Your glutes are perhaps the most important muscle in your entire body. A bold claim, but if you think about it, it makes sense. Your glutes are involved in every bit of movement you do. They help you walk, run, stabilize your core, and maneuver down stairs. </p> <p>Unfortunately, most of us have weak, inactivated glutes. To prove this, try flexing the front of your thigh, then squeeze your butt muscles. Which feels stronger when you squeeze? We’re guessing your quads.</p> <p>This is because as we age we stop using our glutes. We perform exercises poorly or don’t work out at all. We sit at a desk for eight hours a day. As a result, our butt muscles get flabby, weak, and set us up for injuries in our back, hips, and legs.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>What Causes Glute Injuries?</header> <p>There are a few reasons you might have glute pain or tightness. Here are some of them (and remember not to substitute these for medical advice if you have a serious injury).</p> <div class="sub-head">Symptoms</div> <p>Because of the function of your gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius, an injury may make it difficult to walk down stairs, rotate your hips (hip abduction), walk, or run. You may also feel tight hips, soreness in your lower back or butt, and even experience knee pain<sup>1</sup>.</p> <p>We need to remember our bodies are like one giant chain. When one muscle is injured, there is a ‘downstream’ effect on the others. Your glute muscles are in the middle of all the action, so an injury there can affect other joints.</p> <p>This is one reason we advocate using low-intensity exercises that save your joints but still get results.</p> <div class="sub-head">Causes</div> <p>Now, here are some things that cause glute injuries, pain, or tightness.</p> <div class="sub-head">Prolonged Sitting</div> <p>Experiencing low-back pain or tightness in your hips and glutes? Chances are it’s because you’re sitting too much. Whether you work a desk job or just like lounging around, all that time spent sitting tightens up these major muscle groups. </p> <div class="sub-head">Poor Posture</div> <p>Whether you have weak core muscles or just sit slouched over, poor posture can be responsible for tight or painful glute muscles.</p> <div class="sub-head">Poor Form During Exercise</div> <p>Did you know that most humans are what’s called quad-dominant<sup>2</sup>? This means we have overdeveloped quadricep muscles (front of your thigh) and underdeveloped hamstrings and gluteal muscles (back of your thigh and butt). </p> <p>This is a huge problem. When you’re quad-dominant, you place additional stress on the knees and hips during exercises like squats and while walking. We place a huge emphasis on making sure your form is right 100 percent of the time for reasons like this.</p> <div class="sub-head">Not Warming Up Before Exercise</div> <p>You might pull a muscle or strain your glute if you don’t warm it up before working out. Warming up increases oxygenated blood flow to the muscle and prepares it for movement. </p> <p>We break down the perfect glute warm-up for you at the end of this article.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Are Squats Good for Glutes?</header> <p>Squats are great for your butt (and hips and legs, too). <i>But</i> there’s a huge <i>but</i> when it comes to your butt (yes, that was fun to say).</p> <p>For squats to strengthen your glute muscles and the rest of your legs, the form has to be perfect. For example, if you don’t drive through your heels during a squat (instead leaning forward on your toes), you’re placing all the force on your quads and knee joint, risking injury in the process. If you don’t keep a tight upper body and cave forward instead, your lower back and glutes can’t work together, which takes away from the benefits of squats.</p> <p>While squats are great for your butt muscles, not all squats are created equal. Learn how to do <a target="_blank" href="">perfect squats here</a>.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Are Lunges Better Than Squats for Glutes?</header> <p>Unlike squats, lunges isolate your glutes one side at a time. Because of this, your butt muscles are forced to work harder. If you’ve ever done a bunch of lunges or reverse lunges after not doing them for a while, you might notice intense soreness in your gluteus maximus the next day. This is why.</p> <p>But squats are still fantastic for your body. Many fitness pros consider them the <a target="_blank" href="">‘king’ of all exercises</a>. So while we won’t say lunges are necessarily ‘better’ than squats for your butt muscles, they are certainly one of our favorite exercises. </p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Best Glute Warm-Up Exercise (‘Waking Up’ Your Glutes)</header> <p>Remember that injury is possible if you don’t warm up before you exercise. Not only that, but there’s a simple and effective way you can warm up your glutes that will help ‘wake up’ your glutes and help you stop being quad-dominant. </p> <p>Quad-dominant people are at higher risk of injury and rarely have the round, toned butt most of us want.</p> <p>Here’s a simple glute warm up that would make Sir Mix-A-Lot proud.</p> <picture class="lazy-load"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/webp"> <source data-srcset="" type="image/jpf"> <source data-srcset=""> <img src="" class="img-fluid" alt="tyler-glutes-101-0104"> </picture> <div class="sub-head">Glute Activation Drill</div> <p>Lying on your stomach with your feet in the air, try bringing one foot at a time back and then up in the air. Your foot will only move a few inches from its starting point, but you’ll feel your butt muscles working as you do it. Hold it for a slow count of ten and then switch sides.</p> <p>To test, put your thumb on your glute. It should initially feel soft. When you bring your leg back, you should feel your glute muscle activate.</p> <p><a target="_blank" href="">Starting at 2:40</a>, Coach Tyler breaks down this drill.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Best Glute Exercises</header> <p>So, what exercises are best for your glutes?</p> <p>Here are three that we love. You can do them at home and don’t need any equipment. Each glute exercise comes with a mini workout ‘challenge’ you can try or adjust to your current fitness level.</p> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <video autoplay loop muted> <source src="" type="video/webm"> <source src="" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> <div class="sub-head">Shoulder Bridge Lift</div> <p>Lying on your back, place your heels on the ground and press them through the floor throughout the exercise. Drive your hips towards the sky, creating one straight line between your knees and your head. Really squeeze your butt muscles, especially at the top. You can even exaggerate how forward you thrust your hips at the top.</p> <p>Gently touch the ground and go back up to complete the next rep. Press your heels into the ground between each rep.</p> <p><strong>Workout Challenge</strong>: Do five rounds of twenty reps. Give yourself thirty to sixty seconds in between sets.</p> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <video autoplay loop muted> <source src="" type="video/webm"> <source src="" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> <div class="sub-head">Reverse Lunges</div> <p>Reverse lunges train your glutes, hips, and leg muscles differently than squats. This alternating variation also forces you to stabilize your core.</p> <p>Begin by standing with your feet shoulder width apart, bringing your foot behind you. Try to move in one line and not lean forward to prevent excess stress on your knee.</p> <p>Go as low as you can without pain. Think about gently ‘kissing’ the ground with your back knee Then, drive through your other heel to bring your foot back to a stand. That’s one. You can do these in sets (six right, then six left) or alternating.</p> <p><strong>Workout Challenge</strong>: Do a Tabata-style reverse lunge workout (twenty seconds of work, ten seconds of rest). Count how many total lunges you can do in eight sets.</p> <div class="row justify-content-center text-center"> <video autoplay loop muted> <source src="" type="video/webm"> <source src="" type="video/mp4"> </video> </div> <div class="sub-head">Split Squats</div> <p>We’ve talked about squats and sit to stands in plenty of other articles, so we’ll leave you with a squat variation here. </p> <p>Split squats also isolate your butt muscles one at a time. They may feel more comfortable than reverse lunges if you ever have <a target="_blank" href="">knee pain</a>. Start with your feet split and your weight in the heels. Bring your back knee down towards the floor, again maintaining a tight upper body and not leaning too far forward. The knee will not touch but go down as far as you comfortably can. Drive through the heel and return to a stand.</p> <p>Do sets of five to ten reps on each side instead of alternating each rep.</p> <p><strong>Workout Challenge</strong>: Do a Tabata-style split squat workout (twenty seconds of work, ten seconds of rest). Count how many total split squats you can do in eight sets. You can do four sets on the left, then four on the right, or alternate.</p> </section> <hr class="divider-50 divider-medium mx-auto"> <section> <header>Wrapping Up</header> <p>Your gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus, and gluteus medius are three of the most important muscles in your body. They are responsible for walking, running, squatting, getting down stairs, hip abduction, and even stabilizing your core. Without strong glutes, you are at risk for pain or injuries to your hips, lower back, or legs.</p> <p>So what should you do? Exercise them, of course! And to wake your glutes up, you don’t need any fancy gym equipment, dumbbells, or personal trainer advice.</p> <p>Check out Warrior Made’s <a target="_blank" href="">at-home workouts</a>. All of our workouts can be completed from the comfort of your living room without any equipment. And for more exercise guides and articles, check out <a target="_blank" href="">Warrior Made</a>’s <a target="_blank" href="">exercise section</a> on the blog.</p> <div class="sub-head">Resources</div> <ol> <li><a target="_blank" href="">8 Exercises to Relieve and Prevent Tight Glutes</a></li> <li><a target="_blank" href="">A preliminary study on the differences in male and female muscle force </a></li> </ol> </section> </article>

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