A common muscular imbalance I see with my clients is weak glutes relative to quadriceps. This is problematic because weak glutes often lead to body aches, including both knee and lower back pain. Because physiological changes during pregnancy tend to exacerbate existing muscular imbalances, pre- and postnatal moms are at a greater risk of experiencing these aches and pains.
People often gravitate towards front squats and static front lunges when they try to strengthen their glutes. While these exercises do recruit the gluteals, the quadriceps are the prime movers. And if you’re already quad dominant, you are likely to compromise your form in order to unconsciously recruit your quadriceps even more. I see this all the time with clients when they squat or lunge and their knees extend well beyond their toes.
Another limitation of front squats and static front lunges is their inability to effectively work all three muscles that comprise the glutes – maximus, medius, and minimus. That’s right – there are three muscles back there! Any gluteal activation is pretty much limited to the gluteus maximus during front squats and static front lunges. The deeper gluteal muscles – the medius and especially the minimus – activate little if at all.
So what’s the solution? Do alternative strengthening exercises that strengthen the gluteal muscles, especially the medius and minimus. Below are five of my favorites!
Even though I demonstrate some of these exercises with a resistance band or tube, all of these exercises can be performed effectively using body weight only. I suggest you start off using just your body weight if you don’t have access to the equipment. You can always invest in a tube or band later on to add an extra challenge. Both are very inexpensive.
Five Great Glute Exercises!
1. Standing Hip Abduction
You can also do this side-lying on the floor, but the standing version has the benefit of also working the standing leg and improving balance.
3. Donkey Kicks
4. Fire Hydrants (aptly named, eh? side and front views)
5. Foot-elevated Glute Bridges
Elevating your feet works deeper into the glutes than performing this exercise with your feet on the floor.