Why You Should Work Your Glutes (And How To Do It)

Written by Elly McGuinness

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As the largest muscles in your body, the gluteals (your “butt” muscles) serve a number of important purposes when it comes to the functionality of your body. Exercises that target these muscles (gluteus maximus, medius and minimus) should have a well-considered place in any workout program. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why.

Why is it important to have strong glutes?

A nicely rounded gluteus maximus might be an aesthetic goal for some, but your desire to have strong glutes should extend well beyond looks alone.

Here’s why:

  • Your glutes work together to produce fundamental movements around your hips. They play important roles in hip rotation, extension (when your leg extends behind you, for example when walking) and abduction (when your leg goes to the side). Therefore, strengthening your glutes can help you move better during everyday activities
  • Having strong glutes can help minimize or eliminate pain in other areas of the body. For example, instability around the hip area could lead to problems with the knee joint tracking properly. Ultimately this could cause pain in the knee. Depending on the issue, knee problems and sometimes ankle problems can be directly linked to what’s going on in the hip area

Your glutes support your major core muscles

  • When you think of the “core” muscles of the body, you probably think about the muscles in the abdominal and lower back area. However your gluteals also play an important role in supporting your core muscles and can even be considered as minor core muscles.
  • Having strong glutes can decrease your chances of injury and improve your performance, both in everyday activities and sporting situations. Strong gluteals support your spine and stabilize your hips to reduce the risk of injury. They also play an important role in a huge number of athletic components such as speed, power and balance

Why do many people have weak glutes?

There could be a few reasons behind weak gluteal muscles. One of the most common reasons is the amount of sitting that is characteristic of a typical modern lifestyle.

When you’re sitting, your glute muscles aren’t doing much at all. If you spend a significant amount of time sitting, these muscles can become weaker, and provide less support for the rest of the body. Ultimately this can result in pain and discomfort which may extend to different areas of your body.

You don’t have to give up sitting altogether!

Of course, sitting is sometimes necessary. Strengthening your glutes (and the major core muscles) sufficiently can help you maintain an ideal position when you do need to sit, and thus reduce the likelihood of pain being transferred to other areas of the body.

Another reason for weak gluteals could be due to muscle imbalances. If you rely on other muscles (e.g. the quads for example), to bear the brunt of everyday movements, then the strength of your glutes will weaken over time.

Compound versus isolated exercises to work the glutes

There are several great exercises and progression levels to target your glutes. You can opt for compound exercises, which work more than one major muscle group at a time. That means they’ll work your glutes alongside other muscle groups (e.g. the hamstrings and quads, and to a lesser extent the calves in a squat).

There are also lots of isolated exercises that work the glutes. These are single-joint exercises that specifically target and activate the glutes.

We’re big fans of compound exercises on a number of levels. However, if you have muscle imbalances and you’re not using your glutes effectively during compound movements, then you’re likely to really benefit from isolated exercises that target the glutes. Isolated exercises where your leg extends behind you (e.g. donkey kicks) will effectively work your hamstrings at the same time.

Great exercises that work the glutes

Here’s a quick overview of exercises for your glutes:

Compound exercises

Why you should work your glutes - lateral lunge
  • Squats and variations (e.g. weighted squats, jump squats and one-legged squats)
  • Lunges and variations (e.g. static lunges, walking lunges, jumping lunges, dynamic lunges, either with or without weights)
  • Leg press machine
  • Bent leg deadlifts
  • Step ups (with or without weights)
  • Hill walking

Isolated exercises

  • The clam (lying on your side, with or without a resistance band)
  • Glute bridges/hip raise (progress to single leg)
  • Donkey kicks (either on your hands and knees on the floor, or you can do a weighted version using the cable machine)
  • Side steps using a resistance band

If you’re unsure which glute exercises or progression level to add into your workout plan, ask our at-home personal trainers. They’re experts in tailoring your exercise plan to suit your fitness and strength levels. They’ll also make sure your program is designed to suit your personal lifestyle considerations, and injury and medical status.

What are your favourite exercises to work the glutes? Leave a comment in the box below!

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