Your gluteal muscles, the big muscles of your buttocks made up of the Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus are the largest and potentially strongest group of muscles in the body, a powerhouse of action. But most of us don’t use them.

What do our gluteal muscles do?

Essentially the glutes extend, flex, rotate and abduct your hips, but they also have a vital role in stabilising your hips. The knock on affect of this is that they also provide stability for your knees and ankles and help to control pronation of the foot.

Why is my butt lazy?

For many of us who sit at computers and desks all day or do a lot of driving, our hip flexors become short and tight which in turn inhibits our hip extensors – the glutes and hamstrings. As we sit on our butt all day our glutes shut down and forget how to activate!

Weak and inhibited glutes lead to poor posture and compensation patterns. If our glutes are not activating, other smaller less powerful muscles, such as the muscles of the back or the hamstrings, will take over and try to do the job of the glutes. But as they are not designed to do this job they become fatigued and strained, eventually leading to problems with the lower back, hamstrings, hips, knees and lower legs, even the shoulders.

What happens when our glutes don’t do their job?

The glutes, especially the gluteus medius , have a vital role in stabilising our pelvis. When they are not doing this it leads to excess strain on our knee and ankle joints and the associated soft tissues.

The kind of injuries that often have their roots in weak and switched off glute muscles include back pain, hip pain, Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS), sciatic pain, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (‘runners knee’), shin pain, Achilles issues, wear and tear and strains to knee cartilage and ligaments and Plantar Fasciitis. So stable hips make for healthy hips, knees and ankles.

Why else are our glutes important?

So our glutes help us to avoid injury to other parts of our body. But they are also a powerhouse of muscles that propel us forward in sport and exercise. They help us to run and cycle faster and further , jump and climb higher, ramp up the pace, dance, change direction and generally make us more efficient in our movement.

Muscles burn calories! Glutes are large muscles so have more capacity for fat burning. So build those muscles and burn off calories even when you aren’t exercising!

Look at elderly people when they walk or get up from a chair. Can they get out of a chair on their own? Can they walk upright or are they stooped? Just old age isn’t it? No, it doesn’t have to be! They just have no butt! Whatever our age we can all learn to activate and strengthen our glutes.

Our glute muscles help us to sit, stand, walk and run with good posture. They make walking up hills and stairs easier. They make picking things up from the floor easier and safer.

How do we know our glutes are taking a long holiday? What should we be looking for?

Try these in front of a mirror.

Stand with feet hip width apart and feet facing forwards and perform a small knee bend. Do your thighs rotate inwards? Do your knee caps point inwards or outwards (instead of aligning with you second toe)? Do your hips drop and/or rotate on one side? Are your feet turned outwards? Are your toes gripping the floor?

Stand on one leg. Does your thigh rotate inwards? Are your knees and/or ankles unstable/moving? Have you shifted your weight to one side? Has your hip on the non standing side dropped? Are you flexing your torso or rotating to one side? Are your feet and toes gripping the floor?

Stand with feet hip width apart and take a long step forwards. Drop slowly into a lunge. Is your front thigh rotating inwards? Is your hip dropping on one side? Are you flexing forward or rotating to one side? Are your toes gripping the floor? Are your medial arches collapsing inwards?

Standing with feet hip width apart and keeping your knees soft, can you squeeze you right buttock muscles? What about your left? You should be able to isolate left from right and feel something happening!

So you have lazy glutes but you don’t have time to go to the gym or do an exercise class or spend ages doing an exercise routine. Sound like you? If so, look out for my next blog for some simple ideas that you can incorporate into your everyday life. And it doesn’t involve squats!

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