5 of the Best Gluteus Maximus Exercises

The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle of the hip and buttock.  It helps you maintain an erect standing posture and it extends your hip.  The gluteus maximus is one of the strongest muscles in your body.  Strength of the gluteus maximus is needed to walk with an upright posture, stand up from a chair, climb stairs, run, jump, and throw a ball.  Weakness leads to low back pain, knee pain, hip arthritis, and poor balance.  Gluteus maximus exercises are important for people rehabbing from hip arthritis, hip impingement, iliotobial band syndrome, low back pain, patellofemoral pain, and many other overuse injuries.

Exercises start in non-weight bearing positions such as lying on your back or kneeling.   It is recommended that each of these basic exercises is initiated with 3 sets of 8 to 15 repetitions.  When 15 repetitions can be performed, the intensity of the exercise can be progressed by adding weight or increasing the resistance band strength.  Muscle strength and hypertrophy can be achieved with any range of repetitions.  However, to optimize strength, higher intensities with lower repetitions are needed.

Perform each exercise 2 to 3 times per week to optimize improvements in muscular endurance, strength, and size.  The main objective of this strengthening program is to progressively overload the gluteus maximus so muscular control, endurance and strength are developed in a systematic manner.

2-Leg Bridge

The bridge is a great hip extension exercise to start with.  Begin by lying on your back with your hips flexed and feet lined up with your shoulders.  Perform the bridge by lifting both your hips from the floor.  A common mistake is to excessively arch your low back.  Hold the bridge position for 2 seconds then return to the starting position.  Lower your body back down in a slow and controlled manner.

Be sure to achieve the bridge position by extending through your hips.  If you lack mobility in your hip joints or hip flexor muscles this may lead to compensation through your low back.  This can be corrected with manual therapy and mobility exercises.  You can also try bringing your fleet slightly closer together and your knees slightly wider apart.  This will allow you to achieve greater hip extension range of motion.

Cook Hip Lift

Lie on your back with your hips flexed and feet lined up with your shoulders.   Flex your hip by holding one knee to your chest.  It is helpful to place a small towel roll or ball in the crease of your hip.  Lift your toes off the floor and perform a bridge from one leg.  A common mistake is to excessively arch your low back.  Be sure to achieve the bridge position by extending through your hips.  Hold this position for 2 seconds then return to the starting position.  Lower your body back down before repeating another repetition on the same side.  Complete the desired number of repetitions on one side before beginning with the other leg.

The positioning of the hips during this exercise facilitates a neutral pelvis and low back position.  This is helpful for people with a history of low back pain.  However, this also increases the challenge to the gluteus muscles compared to a standard bridge.   Raising the toes makes you press your heel into the ground as you lift your hips. This facilitates your glutes and hamstrings.

Quadruped Hip Extension with Knee Flexion

Begin on your hands and knees.  Position your shoulders directly over your hands.  Position your hips directly over the knees.  Maintain your spine in a neutral position throughout the exercise.  Initiate the movement by flexing one knee to 90 degrees.  Next, lift your heel up towards the ceiling keeping your knee bent.  It is important to avoid arching through your low back.  Hold this position for 2 seconds then return to the starting position.  Lower the leg back down before repeating another repetition on the same side.  Complete the desired number of repetitions on one side before beginning with the other leg.

Prone Plank with Hip Extension

Start with your face down supported on your elbows in a plank position with your trunk, hips, and knees in a neutral alignment.  Initiate the movement by lifting one leg with your knee bent.  Extend your hip slightly past neutral by bringing the heel toward the ceiling.  Hold this position for 2 seconds.  Maintain the plank position throughout all repetitions on one side.  Complete the desired number of repetitions on one side before beginning with the other leg.  A common error with this exercise is to arch or overextend the spine when lifting the leg.  Also, as the abdominal muscles tire, the hips may rise.  Be sure to maintain a neutral trunk, hip, and knee alignment throughout the exercise.

Side Plank with Hip Abduction

Start side-lying supported on one elbow with your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles in line. Rise to a side plank position with your hips off the floor to achieve neutral alignment of your trunk, hips, and knees.  Maintain the side plank position and raise the top leg into abduction approximately 30 degrees.  Hold this position for 2 seconds then slowly lower your top leg. Maintain the plank position throughout all repetitions on one side.  Complete the desired number of repetitions on one side before beginning with the other leg.

A common error with this exercise is to allow the pelvis to tip forward or backward.  Also, as the top hip tires the abducting leg will move forward into flexion.  As the bottom side tires, the side plank position will be lost.  This exercise has been shown to activate the gluteus maximus and medius on both sides at very high levels.  It is also very challenging and may not be an option for everyone.

Closing Thoughts

These 5 gluteus maximus exercises do not need to all be performed during the same session.  Start with 2 to 3 of the exercises.  Exercise selection is based on your preferences and the level of difficulty.  The bridge is the least challenging and side plank with hip abduction is the most challenging.  Within 6 to 8 weeks, the exercises may feel less challenging.   This means it is time for a progression.  Progression may include adding resistance or substituting with a new exercise.  Next week we will highlight 5 more exercises which can be performed in standing.  If you have questions or need some extra help getting started, give us a call.

 


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