“The booty is definitely having a moment.” says Holly Perkins, certified strength and conditioning specialist and Los Angeles-based trainer and author of “Lift to Get Lean.” Maybe as part of New Year’s resolutions, people seem to be focusing much more on getting a shapely backside, giving the “stronger core” goals some friendly competition.
“Of course, having good core muscles is still important, but the glutes are the foundation of your whole body,” she says.
While aesthetics are nice, there are actually much more important reasons to incorporate glute-specific exercise into your routine, Perkins says. She’s so committed to raising awareness about these functional muscles that she recently started The Glutes Project, a program that helps people activate and strengthen these muscles specifically. Here’s a look at why glutes should pop to the top of your workout list:
When your glutes are weak — especially from being sedentary or sitting too much — it often causes the pelvis to rotate forward, Perkins says, so your quadriceps do all the work when it comes to movement.
That causes an unfortunate ripple effect, because as your hips come forward, your alignment suffers, especially if your shoulders begin to round inward and your head juts forward.
“Quad dominance can lead to hip, knee, foot, back and neck issues,” says Perkins. “You may not connect knee problems or lower back pain to weak glutes, but that’s often the issue. Strengthening the glutes creates whole-body benefits that can clear up a range of aches and pains.”
With improved alignment comes much better posture, along with all the advantages that brings. As individuals improve posture, they often find benefits like fewer headaches, less strain on their joints and muscles, and even better digestion since there’s less compression in the midsection.
This can lead to a huge change in energy overall. With better alignment comes less fatigue, because your body isn’t working so hard to compensate for bad posture, and you’ll likely have less pain, which means a fresh flow of energy.
As you reduce fatigue, that can lead to a beneficial loop: Strengthen glutes, get better alignment, boost energy, pursue more activity and repeat. Most likely, that leads to other pluses as well, such as improved sleep, lower stress levels, better nutrition choices due to fewer energy slumps and healthier choices overall.
Another big benefit will be to your overall mobility, says Aaron Leventhal, an NSCA-certified personal trainer and owner of Fit Studios in Minneapolis. Without that quad dominance, your hips will be more supported and you’ll be more “even” in terms of muscles firing, which often means less tightness in your hips and shoulders. That boosts your overall mobility and range of motion, which in turn is helpful for protecting and supporting joint health.
What many people find when improving strength in their glutes is they have a greater ability for different types of powerful and quick movement, Leventhal adds. Glute activation is key for the kind of explosive power that fuels sprinting and jumping, as well as changing direction quickly.
You don’t need to be an obstacle course race enthusiast to see advantages to improving these aspects of your movement, either. Everyone, no matter their age or fitness level, can benefit from having greater spinal stability during these activities. Whether you’re lifting a barbell over your head or just putting a dish on a high shelf, you need your spine to be supported through the motion. Stronger glutes provide that stability.
The glutes are the largest muscles in your body, Perkins says, and as you strengthen them, you’ll increase your lean muscle mass percentage. That creates a very beneficial secondary effect of decreasing your body fat percentage, because more muscle mass increases your metabolic rate, meaning you become more efficient at burning calories.
For example, if you add 10 pounds of muscle and lose 10 pounds of fat, you’d burn an extra 40 calories per day even if you changed absolutely nothing about how much you eat or exercise.
Best of all, it doesn’t take hours every week to see all these advantages. Just incorporate a handful of glute-specific exercises into your routine or work them in as you’re walking.
Learning to activate your glutes on a daily basis and strengthen them over time can deliver huge benefits when it comes to alignment, mobility and body composition.