You’ve probably heard your trainer or even physio say “switch on” or “activate” your glutes. If you do Pilates you will have heard me talk about those glutes and their importance for many movements, as such its important they work properly. Here is a bit of info on what they are exactly, why we keep talking about them, and how to actually active them?

What are the glutes?

The glutes comprise of three muscles:

  1. Gluteus Maximus – Glute Maximus is the biggest of the three, accounting for 16 percent of musculature of the hip. It’s responsible for hip extension and external rotation. It’s also crucial for movements such as sprinting and jumping.
  2. Gluteus Medius – Glute Medius is responsible for hip abduction and internal rotation. It also stabilises the femur and pelvis during weight bearing activities. Glute Med is also important for stabilising the hip during single leg movements. These two muscles are important in many activities!
  3. Gluteus Minimis – Along with the glute Medius the glute Minimus is a primary internal rotator of the hip joint. it helps with abduction (movement away from the midline of the body) and medial (inward) rotation of the thigh at the hip.

Why do they matter?

Weakness of the gluteal muscles can lead to low back pain, hip pain and patellofemoral (knee) pain. In the case of glute Medius, poor strength can lead to increase knee valgus (knees rotating inward), which in turn increases the risk of knee injuries such as an ACL rupture.

What exercises help?

Some of you are already doing these exercises in the gym and if you attend our Pilates classes you will know that Glutes feature prominently in our workouts. Exercises listed below serve to activate & strengthen glutes:

  • Hip abductions (we use the band around your ankles for this one)
  • Lateral/crab walks (we use a band around the knees for this one)
  • Monster walks (band around knees again here)
  • Clams (we use band or no band, either way the set up and control is important during this exercise otherwise there is little point in doing it)
  • Bridges (band, ball, bosu, whatever we can use will help activate those glutes for this one)

Most of you will note we are now doing a more dynamic warm up prior to your training session rather than just cardio equipment, this will help you prepare better for your workout and aids in avoiding injury. A recent literature review found that step ups, single leg deadlifts and wall squats had high level activation for glute max as well as high level activation for glute minimus, alongside side bridges, lunges and side lying leg lifts aids in glute activation and preparation.

In terms of general glute strengthening, exercises such as squats, lunges and deadlifts are highly beneficial. Being compound movements, (using multiple muscle groups) they engage the posterior chain and also develop the strength of the hamstrings as well as the glutes.

Strengthening your glutes will improve athletic performance but can also decrease the risk of developing lower limb injuries and is also important for decreasing low back pain in a rehab context.