The gluteal muscles, often called glutes are a group of three muscles which make up the gluteal region commonly known as the buttocks or the ‘butt’. These muscles are the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The three muscles originate from parts of the pelvic bone and insert all the way to the bone of the thigh (the femur). The functions of the muscles include extension, flexion, inner rotation, outside rotation, and sideways motion of the hip joint. They thus help to stabilize the hip and help in balance. The Gluteus maximus is the primary hip extensor muscle, and also the largest of the three gluteals. Their biggest job is in maintaining the upright position and pushing the body forward. They also help to stand, lean backward, do a plank, squat, and walk.
The bulk of the gluteal muscle mass contributes only partially to shape of the buttocks. The other major contributing factor is the very well developed fat tissue of the buttocks, which gives the buttock its characteristic rounded, perky shape. The fat in the buttocks is mostly what may cause sagging in the buttocks. Exercise tones the muscles and contributes to fat loss in this area, leading to a tighter gluteal muscle or glutes.
How to know if the glutes are tight?
Some simple home tests can tell whether the glutes are tight. To test whether the glutes are tight:
Stand on a step or a stable raised platform.
Shift the weight to one leg and lift the other in front of the body.
Slowly bend the supporting leg, bringing the hips as far back as comfortable.
If the supporting leg feels as if it may cave at the knee, this is a sign of tight glutes.
What are the symptoms of tight glutes?
A person with tight glutes who needs glute stretches might experience some symptoms like.
- pain in the pelvis or buttocks
- pain or tightness in the lower back and knees
- sore or tight hips or hamstrings, which sit at the backs of the upper legs
- Running, squatting, and other movements that work the legs and lower back can increase any pain or tenderness.
What are the benefit of glute stretches?
Glute stretches are exercises that that aim to stretch and loosen the gluteal muscles to make them more toned and more flexible. The benefits of these exercises include:
- To reduce back pain. Strong glutes are essential to lower back health since they assist with pelvic, hip and trunk motions. They also help more evenly distribute load throughout the lower back and lower extremities and assist in good posture. A study among women with chronic low back pain reported that addition of gluteal exercises resulted in a greater decrease in low back pain and increased the lumbar muscle strength and balance ability of such women.
- To reduce knee pain. Hip instability leads to excessive force on the knee and ankle. That can mean knee pain or discomfort. Strong evidence demonstrates weakness of one of the gluteal muscles, the gluteus medius to be related to lower extremity dysfunction and injury resulting in knee pain.
- Increase power and exercise performance. The gluteals assist in forward propulsion during running by creating explosive hip extension. They are essential to acceleration, jumping and even heavy lifting. Weakness of the gluteal muscles will lead to a reduction in power for these exercises. Gluteal stretching therefore helps to improve performance of physical activities.
- Increase flexibility and range of motion. Gluteal stretches also lead to increased flexibility and range of motion.
- Improvement of overall mobility.
- Aesthetic value. The gluteal stretches also make for a firmer, more toned buttocks with even fat distribution which has good cosmetic value, especially for females. This has been reported to contribute to a good body image.
Gluteal stretch techniques
Standing and walking around every 30-60 minutes especially for people who sit at the desk all day help to prevent the glutes from becoming tight. There are several gluteal stretch exercises, some of which are:
Half lord of the fishes.
Reclined Pigeon Pose
Seated figure-four stretch
Standing figure-four stretch
Supine gluteal stretch
Seated gluteal stretch
Recline Knee to Chest
Cross-legged glute stretch
Standing side bend
Glute bridge with band
Seated hip abduction with resistance band
Lizard Pose Variation
Cow-Face Pose (Recline)
Rotated Low Lunge
Kneeling Lunge Stretch
Yogi Squat Pose
Rocking Hip-to-Heel Stretch
These exercises involve different techniques which all serve to strengthen the gluteal muscles.
- Half lord of the fishes. This stretch will help release tension in the gluteal muscles. It might also help alleviate symptoms of sciatica, a nerve condition where pain radiates from the lower back down one leg. To perform this:
Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Bend your right knee and step your right foot over left thigh (a). Plant your right palm behind your right hip with fingers pointed away from your body. Inhale and lift your left arm toward the ceiling and lengthen your spine (b). Exhale and gently rotate your torso to the right, hugging your right knee. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds (c). Switch sides and repeat.
- Reclined Pigeon
To do this stretch: Begin with lying on the ground. Bend your legs and the soles of your feet flat on the ground. Raise your right leg to bring your right ankle to rest on your left thigh, just above your knee. Flex your right foot and wrap your arms around your left thigh, slowly pulling it closer to your chest as you press your right knee away from your body. Hold for 30 – 60 seconds before repeating on the other side.
- Knee to the opposite shoulder
To do this stretch: Begin by taking a supine lying position on a mat and straighten your legs in front of you.
Bend and lift your lift knee and put your hands around your left knee.
Pull your left knee up toward the right shoulder.
Hold for 15- 30 seconds.
Return your left leg to the beginning position.
Straighten your left leg and repeat with your right leg.
If you are considering starting glute stretches try starting with milder exercises, and gradually increase till you are used to it and can maintain fit gluteal muscles.