Buttocks have been experiencing a moment for, like, years now. However, is it feasible to go overboard on buttock workouts? Brief answer: Yes, but it’s not quite that simple. Here’s what experts have to express.
“Generally speaking, most individuals have weak glutes,” states Tara Romeo, C.S.C.S., C.E.S., a strength coach, corrective exercise specialist, and director of the Professional Athletic Performance Center in Garden City, NY. “We have a tendency to be a very quadriceps-dominant society, just by the way we move.”
Focusing on one area — particularly the buttocks — can result in muscle imbalances, tightness, injury, and poor posture. Your glute exercise plan should include ample stretching and rest days. It’s also crucial to incorporate full-body training into your exercise routine and target all areas, not just the glutes.
Good News: You Probably Need Most of That Buttock Work
Even if some of your glute muscles are strong, others might be slacking. Quick glute anatomy lesson: Your glutes consist of the gluteus maximus (the biggest muscle in your buttocks), the gluteus medius (the outside of your hip), and gluteus minimus (at the top of your buttocks). Underneath those, there are a bunch of small muscles that act on your hip joint, working to make your leg rotate, abduct (move outward away from you), or adduct (move inward toward your midline).
“Most individuals have some strength in the major part of their glutes and hamstrings because we use these walking, climbing steps, biking, etc.,” says Andrea Speir, founder of Speir Pilates. “The other super-important areas of our backside-glute medius and glute minimus-are generally weak since we don’t target them as much as we should.”
And it’s not just about having sheer strength — even if every single one of those muscles is strong, you may not be using them correctly. “Not only do our glutes tend to be weak, but it’s very common that most individuals cannot activate the muscle properly,” says Romeo.
So, while it’s vital to have a strong buttocks, the solution is not simply doing more buttock workouts.
Overtraining the Glutes Can Lead to Muscle Imbalances
“Overtrained or overactive glutes, if not adequately stretched or rolled out, will lead to extremely tight muscles,” says Matty Whitmore, a trainer at the Bay Club in Los Angeles. For one, “this could potentially impinge the sciatic nerve,” he says. Having tight or overactive glutes “can also pull on the joints, shifting them out of alignment, causing muscular imbalances, which can ultimately lead to injury,” says Whitmore.
There exist muscles on the front and back of your hip joints (including all the muscles in your glutes) that pull your pelvis in various directions. If one group of muscles is tight and another is weak, things can go wrong. “The combination of overactive and underactive muscles can change normal movement patterns, which can then have detrimental long-term effects on the body and the way you move,” says Romeo.
Engage Your Glutes As Part of a Comprehensive Training Program
Even if you’re attempting to develop glute strength, you cannot safely achieve it without adequately strengthening the other muscles in that region as well.
“If you work your buttocks excessively without prioritizing your core, legs, or postural muscles, it can often result in tightness in the lower back,” says Speir. Envision performing a squat: Your hips flex and tighten, and your glutes are the ones doing the work. “This tightness in the front generates a sway in the back over time, which can cause discomfort. You want to ensure that you are also elongating the front of your body, engaging your abdominal muscles and back, and stretching to help prevent tightness in the lower back.”
Aim to perform butt exercises two to three times a week, according to Romeo. This will help keep them strong without overdoing it.
Also crucial: Ensuring that you are executing the exercises correctly. “If you are unable to activate the muscle, it is impossible to effectively work it,” says Romeo.
Initiate by conducting a glute activation test: Rest on your back with both legs extended on the floor and a hand under each buttock. Without flexing or activating your quadriceps muscles, focus on squeezing the right glute and left glute separately. Once you are able to isolate this movement, progress by bending your knees and repeating the squeezes. Once you have mastered that, practice these squeezes while standing, advises Romeo. (Try these alternative glute activation exercises as well.)
Master the pelvic tilt: “Learning how to perform a pelvic tilt is the key element for the success of all exercises,” says Romeo. The objective is to maintain a neutral pelvis and spine. Imagine that your pelvis is a large container filled with water, and it shouldn’t spill out from the front or the back. (Here is a comprehensive guide on glute bridge variations, including the pelvic tilt.)
Equilibrium is essential: “It is common for individuals with weak or inactive glutes to also have weak abdominal muscles. This weak pair will result in tight hip flexors and a tight lower back,” says Romeo. Ensure that for every glute exercise, you are also performing an abdominal exercise like a plank (focusing on maintaining that neutral pelvic tilt while holding the plank). Many people also neglect to target their glute medius (the outer part of your hip/glute) during buttocks workouts, says Speir.
Try using shellfish and other exercises that open your hips with a small resistance band to strengthen that crucial part of your buttocks.
Never neglect to stretch: Maintain the looseness of your gluteal muscles by using a foam roller on your glutes and performing a figure-four stretch, stretches for the hamstrings and hip flexors, and stretches for the spine for recovery, as advised by Speir. To avoid muscle imbalances, it is important to include stretches for the entire body before and after every workout.
“Always keep in mind: Excessive amounts of anything can have negative effects, and life is all about equilibrium and moderation,” states Whitmore.
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