Exercises To Strengthen and Stabilize your Gluteal Musculature

Butt Strengthening Exercises

 

Exercises To Strengthen and Stabilize your Gluteal Musculature

 

By: Dr. Peggy Malone

 

We have talked a lot in previous posts about the importance of the function of the Gluteal musculature. Today we will do a wee review and then get straight into some great exercises to strengthen and stabilize your butt! 

 

Here is a list of some of the injuries that I see regularly in my practice that have a common denominator of dysfunctional glutes:

 

-Plantar Fasciitis 

-Achilles tendinitis 

-Shin Splints

-Patellofemoral Syndrome

-Knee Pain

-Iliotibialband Syndrome

-Runners Knee

-Piriformis Syndrome

-Hip Pain

-Low Back Pain

-Chronic Hamstring Pull/Strain

 

In the treatment and prevention of injuries along the anatomy train from the floor to the core, (which will include every injury listed above) it is extremely important to improve the function of the gluteal musculature to get past the injury and to prevent it from coming back.

 

We have talked about it before, but it is extremely important so it’s worth the review:

 

There is a difference between strength and function.

 

You can have a big strong powerful Glute muscle but if it doesn’t activate and do its job when it’s supposed to….then it is not functioning correctly.

 

I like to tell my patients: ‘Your butt muscles are on holidays.’

 

This is a problem I see in almost every single patient regardless of their complaint and regardless of whether they are a sedentary person or an elite athlete!

 

You CAN get your gluteals to activate and function properly again!

 

I usually describe this process as ‘re-introducing your brain to your butt’.

 

By making this ‘re-introduction, you will alleviate the pain associated with your injury and you will also gain speed, strength and stability in your run or your sport as the gluteal muscles wake up to the job that they are meant to do.

 

Reactivating your Gluteal Musculature

 

The first exercises that patients usually focus on when they are making attempts to reactivate and strengthen their gluteal musculature are squats or lunges.

 

This is a mistake.

 

If you are struggling with plantar fasciitis, Shin Splints, or any of the other leg injuries that I mentioned above, a huge biomechanical contributor to those injuries is a lack of function and stability at the glutes.

 

Doing a squat or a lunge with an unstable pelvis and glutes that are contracting their work out to other muscles will only aggravate the problem further. 

 

Instead, gluteal strength needs to be achieved in positions that won’t compromise the leg and lead to further stress along the foot and leg. 

 

Only once you have achieved strength and stability gains with the more supported exercises is it appropriate to move on to squats and lunges.

 

Exercises To Strengthen and Stabilize your Gluteal Musculature

 

The first exercise I give to my patients is to make an isometric contraction (an increase in muscular tension without a change in muscle length) of their glutes in various positions as they go about their day. 

 

Hold the squeeze for 5-10 seconds for a set of 10 while sitting at a red light or standing in a line. If you can make this voluntary connection in a static position, then the contraction will be more likely to be there during functional movements like running.

 

You can start this isometric squeeze exercise right away, even if you are in an injury crisis. You may then want to ease into the other exercises for your glutes as the pain of your injury begins to subside.

 

The Clam Shell

 

This exercise will help you to isolate the gluteus medius muscle from a very supported position side-lying on the floor or bed.

 

Start by lying on your side with knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet parallel to your torso. Make sure that your hips stay stacked on top of one another throughout the exercise. 

 

Clam Shell Exercise

 

Place your fingers on your gluteus medius muscle so that you can be sure that it activates during the movement. 

 

Slowly lift your knee while keeping the hips stacked. Repeat 20 times each side.

 

  Clam Shell Exercise

 

Once you get good at this one, you can put a band around your knees to create more resistance.

 

The Fire Hydrant

 

Start on all fours in table top position.

 

 Fire Hydrant Exercise

 

Targeting the gluteus medius muscle, slowly lift one leg up and to the side.  You will look kinda like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant :)

Fire Hydrant Exercise

 

 

Start with 3 sets of 10 and build to 20 reps each side.

 

The Bridge

 

This exercise engages the gluteus maximus muscle that must work to support the back. The position on the floor allows strengthening of the glutes without putting stress on the knees or the lower legs.

Bridge Exercise

 

Lie on your back with knees bent. Draw in the lower abdominals and curl the butt off the floor, lifting the hips until the knees, hips and chest are in line. Hold this position, purposefully squeezing the glutes to support the bridge position. 

Bridge Exercise

 

Keep the pelvis level and the lower abdominals drawn in. If you feel a strong contraction in the hamstrings or the lower back is straining, then you are not using your glutes strongly enough. 

 

Focus on squeezing your butt cheeks together to ensure they do the work.

 

Start with 10 x 10 seconds, building up to 2 x 60 seconds. 

 

Side steps with a Band

 

Start standing with an exercise band around your ankles.  It should be snug when your feet are shoulder distance apart.

Side step exercise with band

 

With knees slightly bent, take a sideways step focusing on the gluteus medius muscle on the side that you are stepping to.  

Side step exercise with band

 

Step 5-10 times one way and then 5-10 times back the other way.  Repeat 3-5 times.  (you can build up as you get stronger)

 

The Hip Hiker

 

This exercise involves recruiting the gluteals to maintain a level pelvic tilt.

 

Stand on one leg on box or a step. Stand up with good posture, head looking forward into a mirror." Tilt the pelvis so the free side drops down. Your stance-leg knee should not have moved nor should your head or back. Focus on your gluteals on the stance leg (place your fingers on the gluteus medius muscle to ensure that it engages during the exercise). 

Hip Hiker Exercise

 

Pull the pelvis up from the tilted position until the free side is level or even slightly higher. Slowly continue this hiking motion up and down. 

Hip Hiker Exercise

Complete 3 sets of 10 building up to 20 reps each side.

 

So, What does your Butt have to do with it?

 

The kinetic chain (anatomy train) that goes from the ground at your feet, up through your ankle, knee and hip and into your core is vital in terms of stability for every person, especially during running gait.

 

Remember that your Gluteus Maximus is your biggest strongest propulsion muscle. 

 

The Gluteus Medius is one of your most important muscles for maintaining stability while on one leg. If these muscles function as they should, you will move your body further and faster with more ease and most importantly with less injuries including repetitive strain injuries like Shin Splints or Iliotibial Band Syndrome.

 

My patients that have had the most stubborn, resistant cases of Shin Splints and other athletic injuries of the legs who had tried every treatment that they could find only got the relief they needed when they added their core/gluteal strength into the equation and focused on getting improving the strength function and stability of the glutes.

 

So begin right this minute by re-introducing your brain to your butt and start squeezing those glutes!!

 

Live Well,

 

Peggy

 

 

 

 

Dr. Peggy Malone is a Chiropractor and an Athlete who helps other athletes to overcome injury and get back to their sport. Her weekly Television Series 'Living Well" inspires people from all walks of life to take control of their health to be as happy and as healthy as they can be.

A former varsity Basketball and Rugby player, she has since entered the world of endurance athletics where she has completed 2 Ironman Triathlons, 3 Marathons, several Half Marathons and many other Triathlons, Road Races and Off-Road Adventure races of varying distances.

Her own athletic endeavors and injuries have given her valuable insight into working with athletes in her practice for both the care of injuries as well as for the improvement of athletic performance.

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21 Comments
  • Michelle DeMarco
    March 19, 2012

    Dr. Peggy,

    This caught my eye on Facebook and I came over to the site to read the full article.  My son and I have both had issues with this.  My son is a full time waiter at a 5 star restaurant here in Phoenix.  While that is very glamorous to work with a top chef, he is really having issues with being on his feet for so many hours. 
    His Triathlon coach had told him last year that he had issues with his iliotibial band and it wasn't until I read your article that it clicked for me that he was probably having discomfort from strength issues mentioned above.

    I am going to send him this article and I think it will help him for sure!  I am also going to take your advice.  Great article!  Thank you!!!

    • Dr Peggy
      March 19, 2012

      I’m glad the article gave you an ‘aha’ moment. You should also check out my article on ‘Shin Splints and Your Butt’.
      You could just as easily substitute in ‘Iliotibial Band Syndrome’ for ‘Shin Splints’ because the cause is the same!
      http://drpeggymalone.com/shin-splints-your-butt

  • Gluteus Exercise
    April 25, 2012

    Great post! Its being very useful to get body in shape with the correct guidance,thanks for sharing the informative post.

  • Jennifer
    February 24, 2013

    Hi Peggy,
    I have gluteus tendinopathy and the tendons have been shot for the last three years.  (Background – I was doing leg extensions in the gym and the whole right hip felt like the hip muscles had been pulled and strained.  Turned out there was a laberal tear in there and had surgery in Feb. 2012.  However, a year later no physical therapy has helped the tendons.They thought fixing the tear would solve the pain but it has not.   I had three PRP shots in Dec-Feb 2013. )  I have tried five different physical therapist who have me try some of these exercises mentioned above.  However, every time it results in extreme pain and I end up having to take flexeril to relax everything.  I sit a lot all day and not sure what to do.  Maybe I should do the exercises above and work through the pain but feel it's aggravating the tendons!  Recently went to a physcial therapist who just had me do some stretching across the body to the left and to the right and that ruined a $1,000 worth of PRP shots and felt like I was back to square one.  Extremely discouraged.  WIsh I could find someone who has dealt with this before. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.  Even just sitting in a chair writing this aggravates it.
    Jennifer

    • Dr Peggy
      April 8, 2013

      I’m so sorry to hear what you’ve been through Jennifer.
      Your case sounds fairly complicated and I can’t really give you good advice without actually examining you and chatting longer.

      I would recommend working with an ART (Active Release Technique) Practitioner to see if you can get some relief.
      Check out the website at http://www.activerelease.com and you can put in your location and find a practitioner near you.

      Good luck with it!

      Peggy

    • mitra
      September 10, 2013

      this is me! No one understands that the exercises immediately flare up the area and it is agony and takes yes, medication to relieve it. I did 20 clams and a few bridges in the living room and was hobbling to the bed. I had a labral tear and hip impingement, had the hip surgery with an outstanding surgeon in NYC but this gluteus medius and minimus pain is killing me. I cant work out anymore. I cant do the side stepping with a theraband because it is so painful and feels like my muscle are not connected to me, it doesn’t function. I used to work-out 6 days a week and had strong muscles so I don’t understand this “weak muscle” theory. I did a variety of work-outs and worked the glutes, all the different muscles, until they burned like heck. At first they thought I had bursitis and cortisone calmed it down a bit but then I had another a month later then another and by the 5th it was completely ineffective. During my hip surgery they removed my bursa but the glute pain was unaffected. Stretching is the WORSE. They hate to be stretched but my mind was convinced they were tight and needed stretching or a tennis ball and I started yoga but it really is the devil for me. I would lay on the bed in agony and used a metal bar to press into the areas to try to get some relief. Did you get any answers? I literally cant do any exercise, my back is killing me and my groin is in a permanent state of clenched, strain and when I try to release it, everything spasms. It insists on being permanently tight, pulled feeling. What is going on??? Why do our gluteus medius and minimus have this issue? I want to add that the muscle right above my rear or it can be descried as the lowest part of my back, joins in. Is this part of the gluteus medius? I need help :(

      • Dr Peggy
        September 10, 2013

        Hi Mitra,

        I’m so sorry to hear that you are in pain.

        You said you didn’t understand the ‘weak muscle’ theory because you previously worked out 6 days a week and had strong muscles.
        I have worked with professional athletes who work out for a living and have gluteal muscles that aren’t stable.
        When human beings are not doing what we are designed to do (run, jump, hunt, gather) and instead we sit or stand in sustained postures for
        hours, it makes us very susceptible to weakness and injury. In fact, the weak, unstable gluteal musculature that I see in most of my patients,
        are often a contributing factor in labral tears and hip impingement.

        As for your current symptoms…from how you are describing things, I would recommend working with a good body worker, preferably an ART practitioner
        to help loosen up the soft tissues around your hip and low back which will hopefully give you some symptomatic relief.

        Keep in mind, that surgery is not a ‘fix’, even with the best surgeon in the world. Once you have injured a joint and it’s been cut into with a scalpel, you are working with something different than mother nature intended….which is why you should get help for the best way to manage your current situation.

        Go to http://www.activerelease.com and click on ‘Find a Provider’. You’ll be able to find a practitioner that is close to you that will hopefully be able to help!

        Good luck and I’m sending you good healing vibes!

        Peggy

  • Glory Okeke
    April 14, 2013

    Dr Peggy,
    I have a quick question. How many times a week should I perform "Exercises To Strengthen and Stabilize your Gluteal Musculature"
    I'm hoping that these exercises give me what I need to strengthen my hip.
    Thanks!

    Glory 

    • Dr Peggy
      June 19, 2013

      Hey Glory,

      I tell the patients in my office to do these exercises every day for 6 weeks to 6 months. It will depend on your body’s current level of instability and adaptation as to how long it will take to see some good results!

  • Glory Okeke
    April 14, 2013

    Also, if I should not work on every day,  what should I do on the day when I am not working out? Should I completely rest or do minor exercises? 
    Thanks again!
    Glory

    • Dr Peggy
      June 19, 2013

      The Gluteal exercises that I’ve outlined in this post are for stability and endurance of stabilization musculature and so they can be done everyday. It is ok for you to do your regular workouts as you normally would if your injury allows for them!

  • Corinne Murray
    May 22, 2013

    By Far the best article I have read on IT Band injury, I am currently squeezin my butt! been off training for 5 wees tried everything, had to pull out of my marathon, it has been the worst time of my life, was running 60 miles a week now I cant go 3 miles without been in agony, I am rolling stretching and exercising (yoga daily) having 7 days off at a time, no change to the pain when i run tho its just horrible i don’t know what else to do. Will defo try the squeezing butt when i put my foot down! :) i’m only 33 I know all the races will be there next year but after all the hard work I have put in it seems so unfair :( got a lot of races in next few months I have paid a lot for. I have spent a fortune on physio too! I will defo look into the ART too. Thanks xx

  • petra klebert
    June 20, 2013

    Thanks for taking me back to the basics./Petra

    • Dr Peggy
      June 20, 2013

      You’re welcome Petra!

      Let me know if you have any questions as you go through the exercises!

  • andrew
    September 17, 2013

    Great article! How long do you think we can see results (muscles being stronger) after doing the exercises?

    • Dr Peggy
      September 28, 2013

      Hi Andrew,

      I tell my patients (depending on their symptoms and the length of time that they have had them) to keep working the exercises for 6 weeks to 6 months. It’s a process where you are continually fighting back against postural habits and muscular imbalances that you may have had for years.
      Hope this helps!
      Peggy

  • Audrey
    February 24, 2014

    What if you can’t do the isometric contraction in the first place? I can’t feel my left glute. It seems like no matter how much exercising, stretching and relaxing I do, all I can manage is to tighten my piriformis. Help :(

    • Dr Peggy
      February 25, 2014

      Hey Audrey, I do have a few patients that experience this same phenomenon. I usually get them to lay flat on their tummies and put their fingers right into the gluteus medius muscle and then, from the hip, lift the leg up from the floor (or bed…where ever you are laying) Doing this action in this position should activate that glute. Once you have practiced a few times. Keep the leg on the ground but keep your fingers on the muscle and then try the isometric squeeze. As you get better at it in this position, you should then be able to transfer the skill to standing and seated. Hope this helps! Let me know how it goes!

  • WadeR
    August 27, 2014

    Awesome article,

    I am going to practice all these moves also make my wife do it, we are both suffering from plantar fasciitis. This article makes alot of sense I will report back in to let you know how you it went.

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