The glutes are the most important yet least respected muscle groups in our fitness endeavors.
Two reasons why they’re important:
The glutes help maintain good posture. Weak glutes overwork your lower back and can lead to strain and potential injury.
The glutes extend your hips when you run, propelling your body forward. Weak glutes will cause the hamstrings to overwork, then tire and become candidates for injury.
So let’s put some concentrated effort into helping your glutes regain their rightful place at the top of the muscle hierarchy.
STRETCH (5 reps on both legs)
1. Glute stretch. Lie on your back and bring both legs to 90 degrees with your thighs perpendicular to your torso. Place your right ankle across your left knee (this will result in the right leg being at 90 degrees across the torso plane). Grab your left hamstring with both hands and pull toward your chest. Hold for a two-count and repeat on the other leg.
2. Hip stretch.
Execute a forward lunge by dropping the knee of your back leg to the ground. Press your hips forward and down. Hold for a two-count and repeat on the other leg.
STRENGTHEN (10 reps on both legs)
3. Step up onto a bench or box. Stand a step away from a bench or box. Step with your right foot onto the box and explode up to standing with both feet on the box. Squeeze your glutes as you do the movement. Step back to the start position with both feet on the ground and repeat. You can alternate legs or do all reps on the same leg. Start with body weight and add dumbbells, bars or a weight vest as you advance. Important tip: The straighter your leg is at the start, the more you’ll rely on your quads rather than working your glutes.
4. Glute bridge. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Squeeze your glutes — your butt will move off the floor — and move your hips up until only your shoulders and heels are on the ground. There will be a straight line from your chest through your pelvis to your knees. Hold for a three-count and return to the start. This can also be executed with your feet on top of a physio ball (aka “yoga ball” or “stability ball.”)
Reverse glute bridge (top). This can be done on a physio ball or bench. Sit with your shoulders and upper back on a ball or bench and drop your glutes close to the floor. Squeeze your glutes and raise your hips until there is a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold for a three-count. Add a weight plate to your pelvis as you advance.
Single-leg press (not shown). Using a leg press machine, start with an empty sled — the platform where you put the weight plates — which is about 75 pounds. Place one foot on the sled platform and lower slowly until your knee is bent about 90 degrees. Squeeze your glutes and push through your heel to raise the platform back up. Add weight as you advance.
Demonstrating these exercises is Army civilian Lauren Pascale, 27, a protocol specialist and competitor in the bikini division of competitive bodybuilding. Do you want to be in an upcoming issue? Here’s how.
Retired Navy Cmdr. Bob Thomas has been our Military Muscle columnist since 2007. He’s the director of the Navy Wellness Center in Pensacola, Fla. He’s his base’s lead trainer, a wounded warrior program facilitator and the Navy nutrition counselor there. His special emphasis is on fitness for the military retired population. Find his Military Muscle columns here.