Most people, when asked about strength and conditioning, always talk about core stabilization. “Core, Core,Core! Crunches, situps, obliques!” Although having strong abdominals contribute to the core, glutes are an important player in maintaining a strong core. They are the forefront in maintaining proper alignment in the spine and hips, and are key in movement like walking, jumping, and in wakeboarding, takeoff and landing.
When the glutes are weak, more stress is placed on the lower back and when the large support of the glutes are no longer available, you are more susceptible to back pain and run the risk of injury.
So how do you strengthen this beloved muscle group?
Below are a series of exercises designed to target the glute muscles:
1. SIDE-LYING LEG LIFT
Lie on your side with your legs extended out straight. Your lower arm can rest under your head; your top arm can rest on your hip. Lift the top leg up while keeping your hips steady and facing forward. Lower down and repeat. For an added challenge, wear an ankle weight. Variations: Instead of lifting straight up and down, add clockwise circles, counterclockwise circles, forward and backward squares, and bicycle motions to intensify the burn.
2. SINGLE-LEG DEADLIFT
Stand on your right leg with your left leg behind you and in the air. Keeping your shoulders back and your back straight, hinge forward and reach your hands toward the ground. Return back up by squeezing your glutes and repeat. Hold weights or a medicine ball for an added challenge.
3. HIP EXTENSIONS ON EXERCISE BALL
Lie on your back on an exercise ball with feet planted shoulder width apart on the floor. Support your head with your hands. Drop your hips down, arching your back and then lift the hips back up by squeezing the buttocks. Repeat.
Only have time for one exercise? The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Reseach reports that the side-lying leg lift activates the glutes the most.