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Do you have knee or hip pain? Is your lower back hurting? Is your posture not as upright as it used to be? If you’re chalking these issues up to getting older, you might be surprised to learn they often stem from having weak glute muscles.
The glutes are the largest — and arguably the most important — muscle group in your body. The gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus work together to create movement at the hip. They also provide a host of other functions, including stabilizing the pelvis during activities, such as walking and running.
Glute Exercises and Glute Stretches to Improve Posture and Eliminate Pain
“Use it or lose it” certainly rings true here. Even if you’re regularly active, if you spend most of your non-exercise time seated, you’re not using your glutes. Weak glutes can lead to poor alignment of the entire lower body, which is an injury waiting to happen. Strong glutes, on the other hand, help to improve posture and can alleviate lower back, hip and knee pain. Strengthening your glutes isn’t just important for everyday life – it’s absolutely crucial to performing your best in athletic activities.
1. Quadruped Hip Extension
This is an excellent glute activator that you can perform anywhere. Try it as a warm-up before your next run, round of golf, cycling session or tennis match.
Start on your hands and knees (the “quadruped” position), with your knees below your hips and wrists below your shoulders. Keeping your core muscles braced, slowly lift your left leg toward the ceiling. Keep your knee bent as you press your foot upward. Make sure you don’t sag or arch your back, and make sure you avoid rotating your hips (your shoulders and hips should be square with the floor at all times). Aim for three sets of 10-15 repetitions per leg.
2. Resistance Band Lateral Walk
This is a classic exercise I use with all my older clients, especially as a warm-up to activate the glutes before weight lifting. It targets the gluteus medius muscle, on the side of your glutes.
Use a resistance band loop if you have access to one (like you see at a physiotherapist’s office; also called mini band). Otherwise, step onto a regular resistance band with handles, holding it taut. If you have arthritis and find this variation to be too challenging on the hand grip, I recommend purchasing a loop.
Loop a resistance band around your legs, just below your knees. Squat down slightly into an athletic stance, keeping your core muscles braced, feet shoulder width apart and chest up. Take a step to the right, keeping your weight on your heels. Actively resist the pull of the band as you bring your left leg toward your right, returning to the start position. Step to the right 20 to 25 times, then repeat on the left. Aim for three sets.
3. Lying Pretzel
Stretching your glutes releases tension from the muscles and keeps your hip joints mobile. I see many older clients with hip mobility limitations — not because they’re older, but because they haven’t been using their muscles regularly. Avoid this problem by incorporating this stretch into your routine and, of course, by staying active in your day-to-day life.
Lie on your back with both knees bent. Cross your right leg over the left, so your right ankle is resting on your left knee. Bring both knees toward your chest, pulling with your hands on your left leg until you feel a stretch in your glutes. Hold for about 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
If you lift weights, you know that squats and deadlifts work the glutes. However, if you’re not also doing direct glute-focused work (like the strength moves above) on a regular basis, you’re missing out on some important benefits. The mind-muscle connection is especially important when it comes to glute training. While you’re performing the strength exercises, take your time, and really focus on feeling the muscles being used.