BUTT, WHAT'S THE RIGHT EXERCISE?
Gluteus maximus, medius and minimus sound like the gladiators of muscles, and they are. These muscles in the butt are responsible for generating speed, agility and power, plus their strength will fiercely defend you against injury.
The glutes are big, strong muscles that sit around the centre of our body and one of their main jobs is to stabilise the body. They hold everything around them together to help muscles work in the right balance. When they don’t work properly or they’re weak, too much load goes to smaller muscles and injuries occur. For example, frequently a groin, hip or lower back injury issue really stems from a weak glutes issue. Instead of looking for one single exercise that will be magic for the butt, a better approach is to use a small collection of exercises that work the three main muscles in different planes of motion, and in the most appropriate manner for your sport or activity.
Best for: All-round strength and development of the gluteal muscles; field and court sports.
All-out sprints get results. When your foot is on the ground during all-out sprints, the peak rate of muscle activation in the glutes (contractile force) exceeds almost anything you can do in the gym. For optimal results, warm up your hamstrings and hips, then start in a track start position. Accelerate rapidly, lifting the knees high, pointing the toes towards the ground and aim to strike the ground fast with the balls of your feet. Decelerate gradually and as soon as you hit top speed (about 20m).
Best for: long distance runners; strength sports; people who have trouble with activating their glutes or piriformis pain.
Stand on one leg or lie on your side and with straight legs, move one leg away from the other, lifting it out in a direct line to the side of the body. When you get to the end of your range of motion, hold the leg there for a couple seconds before returning it to join the other leg. Make it harder by attaching an ankle weight, weighted cable or band to your ankle.
Best for: All-round glute strength and development; running and jumping power for sports; training the glutes to support the lower back.
There are three things to follow if you want make squats hit your glutes hard:
- Go deep – that is, as deep as you can safely go before your torso tilts any further forward or your lower back begins to fold.
- Make the change in direction at the bottom (getting out of the hole) really quick.
- Use a weight that is light enough to follow the points above, maintaining the same speed and depth, for 10 reps. Consciously contract your glute muscles through the action. If you use too much weight, you’ll end up transferring more of the load to other muscles.
Best for: overall glute strength and development; training the glutes to support the lower back; good running posture, especially for sprint activities, or strength sports
This exercise is great for overall glute development, especially for those who have trouble getting their glutes to “fire” (i.e. coordinating their glutes to work). Grab a bench or other support that’s about knee-height and lie your upper back across the bench (i.e. so you’re your body is at a right angle to the bench. Place a weight over your hips – a barbell, small punching bag or medicine ball – and steady the weight there with your hands. Keeping your feet flat on the floor, dip your butt towards the floor, then thrust up the hips until they form a straight line with the torso and thighs. Hold at the top for a couple of seconds.
Best for: distance running, skiing, court sports such as tennis and netball, cricket (running with pads on).
This exercise helps train the glute and hamstring to work together so you don’t overload the hamstrings and injure them. Plus, it’s great for increasing stride and bounding length for running and jumping sports. Attach an ankle weight, a band or a weighted cable to your ankle. Stand on the other leg with a slight bend at the knee. Keeping the leg straight, let the weighted foot travel in the air a little forward of the other foot, then kick back directly behind you. Hold for a couple seconds at the end of your range of motion, squeezing your buttock tight.
About the writer: Dominic Cadden is an online contributor for 2XU. Dominic holds vast knowledge and experience in coaching for health and performance. Having worked closely with elite athletes, coaches, sports dietitians, psychologists, researchers and other health professionals throughout his career as both a coach and athlete, Dominic has significant insight into coaching principles for performance and health. He is also an endurance athlete and powerlifting champion. An accomplished writer, Dominic has more than 20 years of experience writing for various publications across health, fitness, lifestyle and travel industries. Dominic also owns and runs Writeninja Total Fitness.
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