Rump, backside, bottom…whatever you may call it, your glutes are for more than just sitting on. As with all other muscles in your body your glutes, which consist of gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, serve a specific function in your daily life. The gluteus maximus, one of the strongest muscles in your body, assists in extending your leg and also keeping your pelvis in a neutral position during movement and standing. This may not seem like much but every time you get out of a chair or straighten yourself from a bending position, your glutes are working to do that.
The majority of people who suffer from lower back pain discover that the root of their issue is not only weak back or abdominal muscles but also weak glutes. Typically, people who have weak glutes, rely on their smaller and weaker lower back muscles to neutralize the large pelvic bone. This causes a huge amount of strain on those muscles, leading to pain.
Follow the exercises below to keep back pain away and to look your best in those favorite pair of jeans! If you are already experiencing back pain, consult your doctor before beginning any type of physical activity.
Start with your feet about shoulder width apart, and turn your toes out slightly so they are pointing at 1 and 11. Keeping your chest up high and abdominals engaged to support your back, sit back into your glutes as if you were sitting into a chair. Going to a point no further than your knees, move your hips back to a standing position. When performing this exercise it is important that you keep the movement in your glutes and not in your lower back. Here’s a tip: look at the point where the ceiling meets the wall and keep your focus there. That will help you from tilting your upper body forward. When lowering you should be able to wiggle your toes a bit, and if you did look down your knees would not cover them. For the first few times, I suggest having a chair behind you to give you a target. And remember: Lower is not better, so start small and build up. Never squat lower than knee height.
As I mentioned, your legs do more than just move you front to back. So it’s important to train your outer thighs, also known as abductors. Start with your feet together, keeping your left foot where it is, and step out to the side with your right foot while lowering yourself into a squatting position. Pushing through your right foot move your body back to a standing position. Repeat on the other side. It is important to keep your back upright throughout this entire movement. Weight should be shifted back into your heels. For an extra challenge, keep your foot off the floor on the return movement instead of coming back to a standing position. This will add a balancing element.
Find a step or a bench that is sturdy enough to hold your weight and will not slip. Bench height can be anywhere from 2 inches to about knee height. Remember to start small and work your way up. Placing one foot on the bench, slowly raise yourself up so you are standing on the bench. Now lower yourself slowly back to the ground with the same foot. During this exercise you want to focus on going slowly and trying to use your muscles to guide you up and down. Try not to push yourself too hard off the ground or use your upper body to get you up. You will see results much faster if you concentrate on going slowly on the way down, instead of just letting yourself drop.
This exercise is advanced, so if you are just beginning to work up to it, use a chair or wall for support. To begin: Balance on one leg, keeping your chest high, and lower yourself to a sitting position. Pushing through the heel on the ground, raise your body up to standing. To increase intensity you can hold a medicine ball or dumbbell. Repeat on the other side.
Lunges are a wonderful lower body exercise, however if you are experiencing any hip or knee pain, you should consult your physician before performing this exercise. Start with your feet about shoulder width apart, step one foot back so that your back foot is resting on its toes. The heel of that back foot should be off the floor and pointed up to the ceiling. If you feel off balance, use a chair or wall for balance. Slowly lower your body straight down so that your knee comes towards the ground. Push through your front foot and return your body to a raised position. You do not have to come all the way to standing, If you are a beginner, stay in the lunge position. It is important when performing this exercise that you focus on bringing your body weight down and not forward. Your front knee should never go past your front toe.