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The muscle group you’re not working enough

Any guesses what it is?!

Your GLUTES, baby.

I feel like it’s easy for us to think that we train our glutes a lot, especially if we’re into the fitness game and like to squat and deadlift.

But here’s the thing: squatting is not enough.

Strong glutes are insanely important for function:  they help to support our hips, knees, back, and pelvic floor, and are responsible for abduction, rotation and hip extension. They’re also notoriously weak. Whenever I do fitness assessments, I can almost immediately guess that a client is going to have weak glutes. They’re a larger muscle group, but it’s easy for us to depend on supporting structures and let these guys get away with a bit of slacking.

Some benefits from training your glutes (besides that fact that your booty will look pretty fab):

– It can help to improve posture and alignment. When our glutes are weak, this can tilt our hips (tight hip flexors, weak glutes and lower back). It creates a domino effect throughout the entire body, and can lead to a belly that pushes out, an an unnatural arch in our back. (If you need help with posture and alignment, I highly recommend Katy Bowman’s work and this book.)

– It can help with fitness performance. Glutes that properly activate can help us to work harder, faster, and longer. Think faster run times, stronger endurance performance, higher jumps, etc. 

– It can help with injury prevention. If you’re active, getting injured is one of the worst things that can happen. Strong glutes can help to support our knees, hips, back, and pelvic floor, which means that we’re less likely to depend on supporting muscle groups to lead the way. Muscle compensation can lead to altered movement patterns, overuse injuries, and pain. 

If you turn the focus to isolating your glutes on a regular basis, you may be surprised to see that knees, back, or hips might not hurt as much. (Worth mentioning here that if you’re experiencing an injury or any type of muscular pain, get thee to a Physical Therapist ASAP, mmm k?)

5 glute exercises for lean strong legs

Here are some of my favorite exercises to target and strengthen your glutes. The best part is that you can do these ANYWHERE, and if they get to the point where they start to feel easy, you can add some resistance through a loop. I got this cute one at Target (the Tone It Up girls are rocking the branding and product line). The resistance band loops also make excellent travel companions. Toss one in your suitcase and you can do some glute strengthening and barre exercises on the go. All of the exercises below can be made more challenging with a loop.

Glutes exercises

1) Standing hip extension: From standing, step one foot back and gently tap it on the floor. Keep both hips facing forward, and bring your hands to your hips or to a wall or chair for extra balance. Engage your glutes to lift your leg off the floor, as high as it will go. Gently tap back down, and lift. You’ll do 20 of these before holding the highest point and completing 20 pulses at the top. 

Leg raise with hip extension

2) Clamshells: Start on your side and rest on your elbow, or all the way onto the floor. Keep your knees bent, and squeeze your glutes to open your knees. Lower down with control, then exhale to open as far as you possibly can. 

Clamshells

3) Side to side squat walks: Come into a squat position with your booty back, chest lifted and core tight. Keep your hips low as  you step out to the side, and then step back together into your squat. Continue to squat walk 5 to the right, 5 to the left, for 1 minute total.

Side to side squat walks

4) Side lying leg raises: Start on your side and rest on your elbow, or all the way onto the floor. Extend your legs, keeping the top foot flexed and the toes pointed forward. Raise your top leg, pressing out through your heel and making sure that your hips don’t rock from side to side. Lower down with control and repeat. Try for 40 on each side, or keep going until you feel a nice burn. 

Glutes exercises 10

5) Hip thrust: Start on your back, with knees bent and feet pressing into the floor. Press your hips up towards the ceiling (stop when your hips are in line with your torso), and lower down with control. For these ones, it feels easy to load on weight at the gym but sometimes lose the connection with our glutes. Instead, try these with bodyweight or a band loop first and exhale at the top, really squeezing your glutes and engaging your core.

Hip thrusts

So real talk: how often do you strength train your glutes? Are these any muscle groups you feel are neglected?

Hope you have a wonderful day and I’ll see ya later!

xo

Gina

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17 Comments

  1. Jessie R on April 23, 2019 at 8:57 am

    Yes to more glute training! When I added a second lower body training day to my workout schedule, focusing mostly on glutes, my hip pain piratically vanished! I love using bands to really focus on the burn :). The booty pump after the workout is also nice haha

    • Fitnessista on April 24, 2019 at 12:23 am

      YES that is amazing!! and totally agree that the booty pump is a nice perk 😉

  2. Megan @ Skinny Fitalicious on April 23, 2019 at 9:09 am

    Love this! Learned about this with my hip problems and it’s a major focus of my workouts. Luckily my hip replacement keeps me pain free, but I don’t take it for granted and always work the muscles that support it.

    • Fitnessista on April 24, 2019 at 12:22 am

      so so happy you’ve healed well and are continuing to feel good <3

  3. Lauren on April 23, 2019 at 11:45 am

    Love these seemingly simple, low impact moves. I go to barre regularly (3-4 times a week) and love the focus on thighs and seat. What are giveaways that someone has weak glutes? It seems important to properly “activate” them prior to more traditional exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and lunges.

    Also, have you done a review of Pvolve? It looks effective and has really interesting equipment that may be comparable to traditional barre and Pilates classes. It focuses on “pre” physical therapy type moves, but I find I don’t love its branding/messaging — its social media seems objectifying.

    • Nicole on April 23, 2019 at 6:22 pm

      Yes! This is a great post, and very timely for me. After I had my first son, I pretty much lost all of my glute muscle and quickly developed knee pain while running. PT recommended most of these exercises, and now after baby #2, I am trying to be pro active and do them regularly. The best part is most of these can be done while I am lying on the floor playing with my kids.

      • Fitnessista on April 24, 2019 at 12:18 am

        i totally agree! they’re easy to sneak in throughout the day

    • Fitnessista on April 24, 2019 at 12:22 am

      ahhh it’s interesting you should mention that – it’s what turned me off from the brand. i heard the founders on a podcast and they were big into the “heavy weights make you bulky” mentality (it makes me twitch when any fitness professional says this) but i was intrigued by the concept and gave it a try. i did a couple of classes online and loved the concept but found the workouts to be very, very boring. lots of counting, and not much else during the workouts.

      • Lauren on April 24, 2019 at 10:26 am

        lol — the videos are very low energy! It also seems hard to explain foot position and the angles he wants you in on the video format. I wonder if the in-person classes are more engaging? I love barre/pilates type formats — I think they are so effective and like to try variations.

        I also respond to the idea that working out isn’t a punishment or something you “have to do” — it is something we get to do for our physical and mental health. The pushing of the end product being “the perfect body” or “Victoria secret booty” is off-putting to me. We are worth more than just our bodies being decoration and I appreciate that you approach fitness and health in a well-rounded, fun way.

  4. Bethann Wagner on April 23, 2019 at 1:17 pm

    I love this post! I totally thought I worked my gluteus maximus the maximum amount but honestly don’t do any of these. Time to change!

    • Fitnessista on April 24, 2019 at 12:20 am

      <3 hope these help! xo

  5. Amy on April 23, 2019 at 1:31 pm

    I had never really thought about it, but after chatting with you after this winter’s fitness consult giveaways (so fun!), you definitely encouraged me to get going on it! Two or three times a week I add in a quick 5 or 10 minute bodyweight or low weight glute series (have a running playlist on youtube), and it’s definitely made a big difference in my other workouts! Helps to counteract all the sitting I do the rest of the day. Definitely adding this one to my rotation!

    • Lisa R. on April 23, 2019 at 10:23 pm

      Love these! I have actually been doing all these moves after seeing a PT for knee pain I was having while running. After adding in more hip and glute strength, my knee pain disappeared (even though I’ve been increasing mileage for a half marathon)

      • Fitnessista on April 24, 2019 at 12:18 am

        that is so amazing. i’m happy it’s helped with your pain! PTs are miracle workers 🙂

    • Fitnessista on April 24, 2019 at 12:20 am

      YAY so happy to hear you’ve been adding these in 🙂 (i loved chatting with you!!)

  6. Jamie on April 23, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    YES to this! When I trained for my marathon another runner/running coach let me know when they saw my running form that my hips/glutes were weak. So I’ve incorporated a lot of these moves into my routine twice a week, and have seen an improvement in my form since doing so!

    • Fitnessista on April 24, 2019 at 12:18 am

      that is incredible! so happy you’ve seen a positive difference 🙂

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