For pain-free movement, it’s important to have strong glute muscles to stabilize our hips. A sedentary lifestyle can weaken glute muscles, creating “gluteal amnesia” – a condition where the glutes forget to fire up as needed when we walk, run, and rise from sitting. This weakness leads to tightness along the back of the leg, causing discomfort in the hips, knees, and lower back. Strengthening and rebalancing your glutes and hips will relieve pain and make your daily activities more enjoyable!
Here are 3 of our favorite glute exercises
to keep your hips healthy and happy!
Why we love it: One of our favorite exercises to build functional strength, leg lifts improve our ability to move! Raising one leg behind mimics the stride we take while walking and running. Lying prone (on the stomach) keeps our pelvis in good alignment – key for recruiting the gluteal muscles – and takes pressure off the hip and knees joints.
1- Begin by lying down onto the stomach, elbows and forearms resting by the sides of the body, palms face down under the shoulders.
2- Stabilize the hips by tucking in the tummy slightly and pressing the pelvis softly into the mat.
3- Lengthen the leg muscles by sliding the leg away from the hip.
4- Squeeze the glute muscle and raise the leg an inch off the floor or until the leg feels stuck, like it cannot lift any higher.
Top Tip: Focus on stabilizing the hips, rather than pushing the belly into the ground. This will prevent any exaggerated arching of the spine.
BACK LEG LIFTS WITH BENT KNEE & STRAIGHT KNEE
Why we love it: This is one of the most effective exercises for strengthening all 3 gluteal muscles. Standing at a barre or chair, this exercise recruits both the large and smaller gluteal muscles that keep our pelvis stable when we walk. The result? Easy movement of the leg in the hip socket and stronger bones!
1- Stand behind the chair with hands on the backrest. Bend both knees and tuck the tailbone under to stabilize the pelvis. Maintain this position throughout the sequence to target the hip muscles in isolation from the lower back muscles.
2- Lift one foot, keeping it flexed. Pump backwards, resisting the movement so that the muscle contracts as it pumps.
3- Rotating the bent leg externally will target the smaller gluteal muscles.
4- Extending the knee fully while repeating the sequence will strengthen the hamstring in its fully lengthened position.
Top Tip: Remember to keep the pelvis tucked under throughout the sequence to avoid back pain and help decompress the hips. Moving with control and keeping the leg lifts small will help engage the correct muscles.
Why we love it: This full-body Essentrics® exercise stretches the hamstrings while strengthening the glutes and core. When our glutes and abdominal muscles are not strong enough, they struggle to keep our pelvis stable, causing the hamstrings to work harder and leading to muscular tightness.
1- Open the legs wider than the hips with toes facing forward. Keep the legs straight if you have a strong back. If your core is weak, keep your knees slightly bent.
2- Raise your arms out to the side and hip hinge forward. Keep the back flat.
3- Slowly move the arms to the front. Reach forward one arm at a time and lift to raise past the ear. Bring the hands to the thighs and roll up slowly.
4- Repeat and add the diagonal reaches, returning to center and rolling up after each side to relax and reset the back muscles.
Top Tip: Hinging forward at the hips is the key to targeting the hamstring muscles properly. Keeping the spine elongated, be sure to bend where your legs and hips meet, rather than at the top of your hips.
Contributing writer Beth Oldfield, Level 4 Essentrics® Instructor
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