Your bottom isn’t just for sitting or helping you look great in your favorite jeans. Your glutes, known formerly as the gluteus maximus, are also responsible for keeping the lower half of the body in alignment. Particularly if you play tennis or are a runner or walker strong glutes are important for proper form. If your glutes are weak you put your body at risk for injuries or the discomfort of knee trouble.
There are several exercises you can do just three times each week to strengthen your glutes. You will be glad to know you won’t really need any equipment or even a lot of time to improve both the form and function of your backside. Use the following exercises with your regular routine on alternate days. If you don’t yet have a regular routine start by committing to one that you can do during your favorite sitcom. Holiday gatherings are right around the corner; plan now to look and feel your best.
Stand with your back straight. Place your feet forward and about shoulder length apart. Keeping your knees facing forward and using your arms to maintain balance bend your knees until they reach a 90 degree angle, if it is comfortable to do so. Pay attention to your body and bend only as far as you are able. With time you will build the strength in your legs and glutes needed for deeper bends. Having trouble visualizing this exercise? Just imagine lowering your bottom onto a chair. Remember to keep your back straight and your abs tucked in as you squat.
Variation: single leg squats
This variation requires balance, so build confidence by beginning with your dominant leg. Instead of bending both knees as you lower your bottom you will now squat balanced on one leg while fully extending the other leg in front of your body. This exercise looks somewhat like a capital “F” if your body is viewed from the side. Your arms extended forward are the top part of the f, your leg also extended looks like the middle part of the f and your bent leg looks like the stem of the f.
This exercise is just as it sounds. If you don’t have a step bench you can easily do the exercise at home by stacking pieces of wood or even telephone books. Of course, you can also use the stairs. As you build strength and endurance you can use a stool, which will be a bit taller and more challenging. Step up placing your whole foot onto the stair (the heel should not be hanging off). Keep your back straight and alternate feet as you would do when climbing a flight of stairs.
Variation: add weights or cardio
As a variation on this exercise you can hold small hand weights as you climb. You might also add a few jumping jacks between each set of ten step ups for a more vigorous routine.
Begin by lying flat on your back with your arms at your sides and palms facing down. Bend your knees so that your feet are flat on the floor. Now slowly lift your bottom and lower back off of the floor. Your shoulders should remain on the floor. As the name suggests, your body forms a bridge, of sorts, in this position. The uneven bridge you form will be highest under your knees with less space under your bottom.
Stand with your back straight and your feet together. Extend one foot forward and bend the knee so that it rests at about a 90 degree angle. Your foot should be flat on the floor. Allow the other foot to bend at the toes as your kneecap faces the floor below. Your legs will look somewhat like the letter “Z” from a side view. The thigh of the forward extended leg forms the top part of the z and the knee of the other leg facing the floor forms the bottom part of the z.
With each of these exercises it is important to pay attention to form and to go at your own pace. If you can start with only one round of 5 or 8 that is great. Don’t overdo, build slowly to build strength and avoid injury. Finally, don’t forget the basics such as biking, walking, running or taking the stairs (give yourself bonus points for hills). Sprinkle these activities throughout each day and watch your glutes go from flat or flab to fab really fast.