Glute Muscle Training: Why Is It Important?

Written By: Hope Island Physiotherapist, Luke Reynolds.

So, you have knee, back or ankle pain; and your physio has given you bottom muscle exercises. WHY!? Although this is a fair question to have, glute muscle retraining is one of the most important aspects of rehab. Whether you lift 150kg at the gym or are struggling to stand up from a chair- improving the stability in your hip muscles can help offload painful areas and lead to pain-free movement.

What are the glute muscles?

Gluteus Maximus
This is the most superficial of the glute muscles (close to the skin). Its primary movement is to extend your leg in a backwards position. This is a primary action that we perform when walking and on the upward phase of a squat.

Gluteus Medius
The key stabilising muscle of the body. The primary movement of this muscle is the take your leg out to the side and rotate the thigh. This muscle aids in supporting the lower back when lifting, allowing control when standing on one foot and ensuring correct alignment.

Gluteus Minimus
The deepest and smallest of the glute muscles. Its main action is to aid in the stability during activities such as walking or running.


How do weak glutes cause pain?

An inability to control the hip muscles can cause altered biomechanics. In other words, other structures around the knee become tight, more prominent, and want to do more of the work. With knee pain, the ITB, hip flexors or outside quad muscles typically become very tight. This is the body’s way of compensating for weak glute muscles. This results in more load or force being placed on the knee. More load can often result in more pain.

Decreased hip stability can contribute or cause low back pain. When the stabilising muscles around the hip are not turned properly or weak, the low back with take up the strain. This leads to a mismatch in loading, and gradual worsening of back pain.

How do we make our glutes strong?
The good part about glute training is that there are 1000’s of ways to train them. However, there are also many ways that people find to not train glutes correctly. If the quad or hamstring muscles are too strong or tight strong, our body will look to use those muscles to compensate for the weakness in our hips. Below are 2 basic exercises (with cues) to ensure those glutes are firing!

Glute Bridge

  1. Knees bent with feet flat on the floor
  2. Draw belly button in 5%, pinch butt cheeks together
  3. Lift hips up towards the sky- Squeeze your bottom muscles throughout!
  4. Don’t let hips sag, hold for 3 seconds at the top
  5. Slowly lower back down to the ground

HINT: focus all attention onto the bottom muscles. If you are feeling the thigh or hamstring muscles working too hard, squeeze your bottom muscles or bring your heels closer towards you!

Standing Hip Abduction

  1. Stand on one leg (hold on to bench or chair if needed)
  2. Lift leg directly out to side, keeping toes straight
  3. Slowly control leg back to standing position

HINT: try to keep your hips as level at possible. The more you lean to one side, the more other muscles want to turn on.

Book an appointment with Luke Reynolds HERE