Your glutes are useful for more than just shaping out your jeans and squatting. In fact, they’re used in almost every movement we do and so therefore, can affect the quality of our day-to-day life.
Your glutes are made of three muscles: gluteus minimums, gluteus medius and finally, the gluteus maximus which is the largest muscle in the body. They work to extend the leg (bring it backwards) as well as externally and internally rotate the leg at the hip and abduct the thigh (bring it away from the body). They also stabilize the hip alongside many other lower-body muscles.
Glute max – thigh extension
Glute med – thigh abduction, internal rotation when hip is flex, external rotation when hip is extended
Glute min – thigh abduction, internal rotation when hip is flex, external rotation when hip is extended
Now, a lot of these actions you may recognize from everyday activates such as when you stand up, walk lift things off the ground or generally just use your lower body. The only problems occur when the muscles are used improperly or when not used enough. You may be thinking “but how can I not use my glutes enough? They seem to do everything!” Well, very simply you can sit or lay down for extended periods of time in a compromised position. This stretches out and weakens the glutes which can lead to aches, pains, injuries and all manors of nasty problems. We’re not just talking about injuries to the hips, either. Due to the location of the glutes in the center of your body, they have a knock on effect to your other joints from your ankle to your shoulders. Even your neck can be affected by a gluteal problem. Weak glutes create bad posture such as a rounding of the lower back which in turn spreads to a rounding of upper back, internally rotated shoulders, knock knees (internally rotated hips), flat feet and many other issues you can see from just 10 minutes of people watching in a mildly busy area.
What we want to do is make sure this doesn’t happen and fortunately, there are very easy steps to making this happen. Obviously, strengthening the glutes is a big factor. Exercises like the squat, deadlift, lunge, hip thrust, sprint and vertical jump can all train the glutes to be strong and powerful. You don’t need to squat everyday but making sure to hit them intensely and often is a great way to avoid injury.
The next way to improve your glute health is to stretch out the opposing muscles. So, if the glutes work to extend the hips you want to stretch out the muscles which flex the hips a.k.a. the hip flexors. These become tight from sitting down hunched over for extended periods of time. These muscles are located on the front and inside of the leg. Here are seven stretches to decrease tension in this area and relieve pressor from the front of the hips:
- Glute bridge stretch
- Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch
- Supine Hip Flexor Stretch
- Happy Baby Pose
- Swinging Leg Stretch
- Pigeon Pose
- Spider-Man Stretch
You can also foam roll the front of your hips and legs or pay for a sports masseuse to get in really deep.
Now, you may not sit at a desk all day and that’s fantastic. Though, that doesn’t mean hip health is no less important. If you take care of this vital area it will take care of your whole body so it’s worth investing some time every now and then to help you feel better.