When I assess clients, 9 times out of 10 the glutes are weak. And, in case you are wondering.....glutes matter in men too! I believe weak glutes are one of the biggest causes fo low back pain and other chronic pain issues.
The glutes are constantly overlooked when it comes to working out. We see this trend with the popularity of HIIT classes. Everyone is trying to get their heart rate up and sweat as much as they can, but at what cost? The glutes are responsible for hip extension and posterior pelvic tilt, hip abduction, and hip external rotation. We use them for squatting, sprinting, cutting back and forth, throwing, etc.
If someone does not have fully functioning glutes, the wrong muscles will work to overcompensate, thus still allowing us to perform the movement, but not in the correct way. If you have strong quads, you will use them more — the same thing is true if you have strong glutes. The glutes are an important muscle group because most of your power generated will be derived from them. If your glutes work how they should, you are far less likely to get injured. The glutes simply help the body function better.
How often should people focus specifically on their glutes within their fitness routine?
Everyone’s anatomy is a little different, and you need to find what works for you. For example, not everyone can perform a glute bridge the same way because of hip anatomy. Some people may need their feet further from their body or have their toes and/or knees out more. Others may need to work on maintaining a posterior pelvic tilt, while some may need to learn to engage their abdominals and other muscle groups.
Occasionally I get clients whose glutes aren’t strong enough to hold a body weight bridge. This is where a band can be your best friend. Bands are a great way to really isolate the glutes. I will also have a client go up into a bridge and actively press their knees in so the muscle is forced to perform its action. When I get a beginner, we find their optimal position. Your mind-body connection is the number one thing — if you don’t feel your glutes working, then they probably aren’t. As the connection develops and is mastered, you can add load. Once the connection is solidified, I introduce different methods of strength training.
What does that look like
As for strength training methods, variety will be your best friend. Variety includes volume, load, frequency, upper versus lower glute target areas, lateral work — the list goes on. At the very least, I try to have my clients who go to classes activate their glutes and feel the “pump” for a better mind-body connection. Then, I have them perform isolated glute work on their own outside of classes to ensure the glutes aren't overpowered by stronger muscle groups or lack of good form.
Exercises that work all around the hips and also target the entire trunk are important to keep the glutes healthy and firing.