I have a little secret...
I have to confess. I look at butts. Everywhere I go I look at butts. Men's butts. Women's butts. I don't discriminate.
You see, I can tell a lot about a person from his or her butt. I can tell if she has a job where she spends hours sitting at a desk. I can tell if he suffers back pain, or is at risk for back pain. I can tell if she sometimes has pain in her knees.
All that from a butt? Yep! Believe it or not, your butt says a lot about you.
Your butt isn't just a cushion upon which you sit. Your butt is comprised of muscles that help move and support your hip. The most well known of these muscles are the gluteal muscles (maximus, medius, and minimus). There are also smaller muscles, such as piriformis, gemellus superior and inferior, quadratus femoris, as well as others. If all of these muscles are weak, the hip will tend to have a posterior tilt.
A posterior tilt can lengthen and weaken the muscles of the back.
When those hip muscles are weak, they cannot perform the way they are supposed to, leaving the lumbar spine to attempt to do some of the work. The lumbar spine isn't supposed to move and produce force, but when the hips are weak and unable to move correctly, lumbar spine says "Don't worry hips, I'll do it for you." Now we begin to experience pain in our lower backs, and maybe even begin to see injuries.
Weak hip muscles can also contribute to knee pain, by allowing your knees to collapse in when stepping up or squatting down. This knee collapse is called valgus.
Women tend to go into valgus more often than men partly due to a wider Q angle. The Q angle is the angle represented by the lines of the quadriceps muscle and the patellar tendon. Due to our wider hips, women usually have a wider Q angle.
So what can you do to help strengthen those hip muscles and save your back and knees? There are many exercises to help strengthen that butt and those hips. I've picked 5 of my favorites to share with you.
We all know the squat is good for glutes. The one thing you may not realize is to maximize the glute involvement in the squat, squeeze your glutes together at the top of the the movement, and push your hips slightly forward so you are standing straight.
2. Mini Band Lateral Walks
This move really burns those glutes, specifically the gluteus medius. This exercise is used in rehab, but is a great prehab and accessory exercise.
3. Glute Bridge
Jane Fonda had it right in her workout videos in the '80's! The glute bridge is easy to do anywhere and has many variations to challenge that booty!
4. RDL (Russian Deadlift)
Some people may refer to this exercise as the stiff leg deadlift. The RDL is a great glute and hamstring exercise. The most often made mistake I see when someone is performing the RDL is rounding the back. You want to make sure your back remains in a flat, neutral position throughout the exercise.
5. Hip Thruster
This is probably my all time favorite glute exercise. Made popular by the Glute Guy, Bret Contreras, this move takes the idea of the glute bridge to another level. When you finish this exercise, your butt is on FIRE! Make sure you keep your back in a flat, neutral position throughout the move. Lift with your hips and extend your hips as high as you can.
Work on these exercises the next time you're in the gym. They will help you move better, and, of course, give you a nice butt! Remember, I'm probably looking! ;)