Practical tips to train the gluteal muscles in the best way
The gluteal muscles play an important role in daily life activities. They stabilize the pelvis, extend and rotate the hip laterally, and control the femoral adduction, abduction and internal rotation. The gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles: the gluteus maximus (GMax), which is the largest hip’s muscle, the gluteus medius (GMed), which has a “broad” and “fan” shape, and the gluteus minimus (GMin), which is situated right beneath the GMed.
Why you should tone gluteal muscles
Toning the gluteal muscles is fundamental for several reasons:
- It contrasts lower back pain and various lower extremity pathologies (e.g. patellofemoral pain syndrome). In fact, hip dysfunction (weakness and limited range of motion) is one of the factors that have been associated with these discomforts.
- The gluteal muscles are the largest muscles of the body thus they provide a higher caloric expenditure than that of other muscles.
- Practicing exercises for buttocks and hips can help you to reach an enviable body shape.
Best way to stimulate this muscle group
Gluteal muscles are massively used during the day: from walking, climbing stairs, and getting up from a chair to staying in a standing position. Therefore, it is necessary to stimulate this muscle group in the best way. It is thought (erroneously) that the best way to tone the gluteal muscles is to practice squats and dead lifts only. However, some studies have demonstrated (using electromyography) that there are other efficient exercises to obtain a higher gluteal muscles activation level. In particular, it has been proven that you can get a high-level activation of GMax and GMed ranged between 50% and 60% of maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) with the following exercises:
- quadruped with contralateral arm/leg lift;
- retro step up;
- wall squat;
- single-limb squat;
- single-limb deadlift;
- pelvic drop;
- side-lying hip abduction.
Furthermore, another exercise that has been shown to induce a very high-level of activation of GMax (74% MVIC) is the forward step-up (start standing just behind a step, than place a foot onto step and raise using the leg to lift the body up). Similarly, there are two exercises that are thought to induce a very high-level activation of GMed: single limb squat (64% MVIC), and side bridge to neutral spine position (74% MVIC). In the first exercise, the individual stands on one leg and slowly lowers themselves. In the second exercise, the individual is lying on the side with forearm of the same side resting on floor, top leg crossed over bottom leg, they then lift bilateral hips to neutral position.
Apart from practicing the best exercises to tone the gluteal muscles, it is also important to do the movements correctly, in order to avoid musculoskeletal injuries. You must pay attention to coordination, postural control, breathing, use of ankles, knees and hips, and you should not overload the lower back.
Concluding, the best way to tone the gluteal muscles is to exercise with high load without fearing to gain hypertrophy muscle mass, to do workout with the maximal concentration and to choose few and controlled exercises, in particular, the forward step up and the side bridge, that can give you a great satisfaction.
- Reiman MP, Bolgla LA, Loudon JK.
- Hamstra-Wright KL, Huxel Bliven K. Effective exercises for targeting the gluteus medius. J of Sport Rehabilitation. 2012 Aug; 21(3):296-300. Epub 2011 Dec 30. PMID: 22234914.
- Physiotherapy Theory & Practice Journal
- Journal of Sport Rehabilitation