Butt, bum, bottom, tush, glutes, backside, booty.. whatever you want to call it, this area is extremely important to our function as humans.
Think about it. This muscle group sits pretty centrally in our bodies and I would argue that it has a vital role in just about every joint. Our glutes sit perched at the top of our legs, and they directly control motion at our pelvis and hip joints. But more than this, since our bodies are connected, their actions (or inactivity) can play a huge part in the health of things below our hips like our knees, ankles, and even feet. And guess what sits on top of our pelvis? Our spines!!! So yes, our glutes have a powerful role in maintaining our spine health too. Plus, since our spines are in turn are connected to our ribs and arms, these can be affected too.
Our glutes are big, powerful muscles and in many activities or movements, they should be the main drivers of action or stabilizers of excess motion. If they are restricted, weak, or dysfunctional in some other way, your body will compensate to get the job done. Unfortunately, this isn’t sustainable over time and your body will start giving you signals that something isn’t quite right (like pain!).
Here are some examples:
1. A golfer gets shoulder pain. For a proper golf swing, you need both mobility and strength in your hips and pelvic region. On the side that you are rotating toward when you go for that hole in one, you need to be flexible enough to allow a good amount of internal rotation of your hip. The opposite side (along with your core!) need to create the energy to drive that side of your body around and make perfect contact with the ball. If something in this equation isn’t happening well, you are going to create that force some other way (let’s face it, we want to show off for our golfing buddies). Perhaps this comes in the form of over-utilizing your arms instead of keeping them as relative extensions of your trunk. You might get away with this for a while, but inevitably your shoulder will start bugging you from the extra work it’s putting in.
2. A runner gets knee pain. Our hips in general have a lot of mobility. They are ball and socket joints so they allow 3-dimensional range (fwd/back, side to side, and internal and external rotation). This is great! We need that motion for many tasks, but the caveat is that we have to control it since the joint below your hip (your knee) is primarily a hinge joint, only bending and straightening. Every time we stand on one leg, even in walking and especially in running, we rely on our glutes to control the position of our pelvis and femur (thigh bone). If your glutes aren’t doing their job, the femur will rotate inward, and the knee joint (which also includes the femur) is left to deal with the extra strain. If this continues, there is a good chance that knee pain will develop over time.
By now, I hope you’re getting the idea that these muscles are super amazing, but can also become problematic if not taken care of. Fortunately, there are tons of ways to make sure this area of our bodies is staying up to par.
Let’s review the basics:
There are actually 3 muscles that make up your “glutes,” your gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. They each have slightly different functions, and some muscles even have different functions based on which fibers of that muscle you are talking about… but I won’t bore you with that.
The main actions of the glutes that we typically need to strengthen are:
- Hip extension (bring your leg back behind you)
- Hip abduction (bringing your leg out to the side)
- Hip external rotation (rotating your leg to point your knee and toes out to the side)
- Pelvic stabilization (such as when you’re standing on one leg)
In my experience, even people who try to specifically train their glutes miss some of these key elements. Keep in mind that yes, your glutes sit on your backside so when you are performing exercises, it is great to feel work in this area. But we can’t forget about the sides of our hips either.
Not sure where to start? Have no fear! I am excited to start regularly featuring #TushyTuesday to highlight some of my favorite glute exercises, tips, and tricks. So be sure to follow along on Facebook or Instagram to try my weekly booty exercise!
Have a booty-ful week and I’ll see you next week for #TushyTuesday!