Keeping your gluteal muscles ( butt muscles) strong is an important element to creating healthy full body motions such as climbing stairs, getting out of a chair and most athletic activities. This short sequence will give you a great starting point to creating strong and limber gluteal muscles.
First you’ll want to stretch your quadriceps and hip flexors to ensure that shortness in these muscle groups aren’t inhibiting full access to your glutes.
Prone Quad Hip Stretch
Lye prone. Press both hip bones onto the mat. Lightly draw the space under your belly button. Reach back and hold onto one foot or use a strap. This position should not hurt your knee. Instead you should feel a pull on the front of your thigh. Gently push your foot into your hand or strap and hold for 5 seconds. Then pull the foot toward your butt , feeling a reach through the thigh for a two full breath cycles. Repeat 5X. Do other side.
Kneeling Hip Flexor Lunge
Do this exercise near a wall and use your hand closest to the wall for balance. Make sure to do this on a soft mat to protect your knees.
Come into the kneeling lunge as pictured. Level your hips as much as possible. Draw your pubic bone up to engage your abdominals and draw the back of the pelvis down. This creates a posterior pelvic tuck to maximize the stretch directly in front of the hip socket. To increase the stretch move your pelvis and spine as one unit forward toward your front leg. Your front knee will bend a bit further. Stay in the stretch for 5 seconds and then back out of it , do10 x. Then go into the stretch one last time and remain there for 5 full breath cycles. As you’re breathing visualize length up through your spine.
Now you are ready to strengthen your gluteals. This set focuses on targeting your Gluteus Maximus the largest and most powerful of the gluteal muscles.
Prone Straight Leg Lifts
Lie face down with your hands under your forehead. Gentle press your pubic bone into the mat and feel a gentle lift of the abdominals. With a straight knee lift one leg off of the mat while keeping the pelvis still. Imagine the front of your thigh sliding away from your ASIS, anterior hip bone. You should feel the gluteal muscle engage when the leg is only an inch or two off of the mat.
This exercise can also be done with a bent knee to more intensely target the glutes.
Do 10-30 reps
Note: If you feel this in your lower back you are either going too high, doing too many reps or engaging the muscles in your lumbar spine too early in the motion. Try sitting back into a child’s pose to relax and length this muscle group and then do the leg lift again.
Neutral Pelvic Lifts
Lye onto your back with your knees bent and heels in line with your sitbones. Press into the heels to prepare the posterior leg to engage. Keeping the pelvis level , like you have a cup of tea on your belly button, lift your hips up and hold for three breath cycles. Repeat 5-8 times.
Stand with your feet parallel. As you bend your knees pretend you are sitting down in a chair that is very far behind you, reach your sitbones for the chair. Counter balance your upper body by leaning forward and bringing your arms up , all with a flat back. This creates a hinge only at the hips , so the motion is occurring at the hip, knees and ankles and not the spine. Before coming back up actively press into the feet , feeling the whole foot on the floor.
Repeat 10-50 x
Always good to end a set of exercises with a stretch, as tight muscles often create dysfunction if they go unchecked for too long.
Figure Four Stretch
Lying on your back cross your right foot over the left knee. Pull your left knee into your chest and breath for 6 long breath cycles. Visualize the posterior muscles melting and widening. Repeat on the other side.
To learn more about healthy movement patterns, strengthening exercises and physical wellbeing contact Mongoose Bodyworks in Soho New York City.
Halle Clarke Owner and 2nd Generation Pilates Instructor.