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Home Women Female Fitness The Complete Women's Guide to Everything Glutes

The Complete Women's Guide to Everything Glutes

The Complete Women's Guide to Everything Glutes

When doing a fitness assessment, one of the questions that I ask a woman client is this: What are the areas of your body that you would like to make more fit? The number one--slam dunk--answers are hips (saddle bags) and buttocks (sagging, fat, etc.)! Overfat thighs and triceps (grandmother arms) are close seconds! There is one prerequisite to getting your rear area in gear! You need to make sure your glutes are firing properly! Any personal trainer worth his or her salt wants to help clients prevent injuries and improve quality of life. Improving the client's physical appearance is the fringe benefit of fitness. 

The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body. The anatomy of the gluteal region (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus) is shown below:


The glutes don't fire properly when the hip flexors (psoas, iliacus, tensor fascia latae, etc.) are overactive or tight. This can happen due to poor flexibility or prolonged sitting. When the hip flexors don't work properly, its antagonist (mainly the gluteus maximus) becomes weak. This is known as reciprocal inhibition (when muscles on one side of a joint become tight or overactive, it shuts down the muscles on the other side of the joint). When a prime mover (such as the gluteus maximus) becomes weak, other muscles (synergists) take over the function that the prime mover should be doing. Some injuries that occur because of inactive glutes are hamstring injuries, pirformis syndrome, knee ACL tears and low back injuries. Okay, enough of the technical stuff!


So, what do you need to do to fire up your glutes?! First, you need to understand why your glutes are not firing properly. They are probably not receiving the neural drive from your central nervous system. So, it is probably not an issue of strength. Their are some exercises you can do to correct this problem. First, you need to lengthen tight muscles. The stretches are listed as follows:

1. Hip Flexor Stretch

2. Quadriceps Stretch

3. Bodyweight Lateral Lunges (for adductors)

Then, you need to activate (fire up) your glutes with these exercises:

1. Glute Bridge

2. Opposite Leg Opposite Arm Raise

3. Glute Kickbacks


Lastly, exercise the fired up glutes with these exercises:

1. Bodyweight squats

2. Lateral tube walks

3. Walking Lunges

When you talk about shaping up your glutes, you need to know your body type. Because of your genetic makeup, you are predisposed to respond to exercise in a particular way. Among other things, genetics determines your ratio of testosterone to estrogen, types and distribution of muscle fibers, where body fat is stored and body type. 


There are three basic body types. You will fall under one or a combination of these body types. 


Mesomorphs - Mesomorphs tend to be muscular with large bones and thick joints. Due to more muscle mass, mesomorphs usually don't have weight problems unless they overeat and undertrain. 


Endomorphs - Endomorphs are more rounded, voluptuous or sometimes chubby. Their bones and joints are not as large as mesomorphs but larger than ectomorphs. Endomorphs tend to have more body fat and need regular weight and cardio training and good nutrition.


Ectomorphs - Ectomorphs are slim or linear in shape. They often lack muscle tone and sometimes have postural problems of the vertebrae (scoliosis is an example). Therefore, weight training is very important. Ectomorphs often have to eat more just to maintain weight (we all should have that problem)!


Mesomorphs respond to weight training by building muscle mass much faster than ectomorphs, even though they are following identical programs. And endomorphs generally need to lose body fat to see changes in shape as a result of strength training. As you can see, it is critical to have your training program tailored to your individual needs and goals. 


You probably know where your body stores the most body fat. When you train your glutes, don't neglect the other areas of your body. For instance, it is critical to stabilize and strengthen your body's core first. This will aid you when you train other areas of your body. 


In general, with the possible exception of ectomorphs, it is a good idea to start your training program with 3 days a week of full body circuit weight training. This type of training has been proven to effectively burn fat and improve heart function. Combine circuit weight training with 5-6 days a week of cardio exercise and you will burn even more fat. This type of training should last about 4 weeks to build a foundation. The later stages of your training can target problem areas such as your glutes. 



Now, I will detail the functions of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. First, understand that every muscle must load in all three planes of motion before they can unload with maximal force. The glutes are no different in this regard, although one of the principle roles of the glutes are to eccentrically decelerate the forces generated by gravity, momentum and ground reaction forces.


Let's look at the functions of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus: 

1. First, the gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body (Wow!). It originates at the ilium (posterior crest), sacrum (posterior) and lumbar fascia. It inserts into the femur (gluteal line, or rear) and tibia (lateral condyle). The primary function of the gluteus maximus is to extend the hip (moving the thigh to the rear). A summary of the gluteus maximus' muscle contractions are: 


Concentric (force production) - Accelerates hip extension and external rotation

Isometric (stabilizes force) - stabilizes tibial internal rotation

Eccentric (force reduction) - decelerates hip flexion and internal rotation 


2. The primary role of the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus is to abduct the hip. Abduction separates your legs away from the midline of the body. The minimus lies underneath the medius. They both originate at the ilium and insert into the femur (greater trochanter, or side). Abduction occurs during any athletic movement requiring you to move from side to side such as playing the infield in baseball, defense in basketball and football, and ice skating. The gluteus medius and gluteus minimus also have critical roles in gait (walking) because they stabilize the pelvis. This prevents the pelvis from tilting sideways when you are balancing on one foot. A summary of the gluteus medius' and gluteus minimus' muscle contractions are: 


Concentric (force production) - accelerates hip abduction and internal rotation

Isometric (stabilizes force) - stabilizes the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex

Eccentric (force reduction) - decelerates hip adduction and internal rotation


The gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus are sometimes called the "gluteal deltoid" because together they form the same shape as the deltoid muscles of the shoulder. The gluteal deltoid also performs similarly to the shoulder's deltoids. The deltoids move the shoulder through all planes and the gluteal deltoid does the same for the lower extremities.

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