The muscles that act on the posterior side of our lower trunk receive a great deal of attention. Much of this attention focuses on the aesthetics of the “bottom”, rather than the actual importance of what the muscles do, and why having strong, functional muscles are of value to our daily lives, as well as during sports and activities.
When considering the shape, tone, and strength of our buttock muscles, remember that the hips and legs are designed to move in intricate patterns.
Lower Body Exercises
Exercises to target the lower body muscles should be equally complex. While walking and running are great for the lower body and cardiovascular conditioning, they only challenge the hips and legs in a forward stride pattern.
- Incorporate exercises that move your hips and legs through all planes and ranges of motion.
- When developing your exercise plan, be sure to give attention to the “functionality” of the exercise; will this exercise train multiple muscles while simulating a movement I need to do in my daily life?
Remember that if the training uses numerous muscles, more than one joint, and encourages the use of core muscles and stabilizing muscles, it’s likely functional.
I often tell my clients that if they want to age independently, it’s important to maintain a strong, flexible, functional body. Imagine losing the ability to toilet yourself, shower or bathe, or even dress as you age?
Being able to do these things on our own should be a priority for all of us, so we can maintain the independence that we value so highly. Any exercises that we do should have a functional component.
- Consider the activities that are part of daily living, and then develop your exercise routine as a reflection of these activities.
- For example, doing squats will help you to maintain the muscular strength and flexibility needed for toileting and bathing.
- Exercises that involve strengthening the shoulder muscles will help you to maintain the ability to dress yourself.
Why Functional Exercises Matter?
By choosing exercises that are multi-joint, you are better replicating the movement patterns used in daily life and will strengthen the muscles that serve multiple joints.
This means less time in the gym and better functional strength.
Buttocks Muscles: Getting to Know Your Gluteal Muscles
Let’s review the muscles that form our buttocks.
You have likely heard the term “glutes”; your buttocks are formed by three main muscles:
- gluteus maximus,
- gluteus medius, and
- gluteus minimus
In addition to these more superficial muscles, there are several deeper, smaller muscles: piriformis, obturator internus, gemilli, and quadratus femoris.
One of the best exercises for strengthening and toning the buttocks is the squat. The squat offers many variations: with or without weights, using resistance bands, deep, plie, sumo, and more. By adding variety to your squats, you will challenge these muscles in different ways.
Lunges are another go-to exercise for building better buttocks, and they tone the calves and thighs too. Lunges also offer incredible variety such as side to side, forward and backward, and my favorite is the back curtesy lunge.
Other Popular Lower Body Exercises
- Bridging, side leg raises, dog at a fire hydrant are all classics and continue to be entrenched in routines because they work. By doing lunges in a 360-degree pattern, you will challenge your buttocks and leg muscles in many ways.
- Add weights to increase the intensity or change up the speed at which you are moving.
- Begin with mastering the technique of the lunge before adding elements such as resistance or plyometric movement.
HIIT Lower-Body Workouts
- For an excellent high-intensity interval exercise that targets shoulders, hips, and core muscles as well as your glutes, incorporate a set of high-speed mountain climbers into your routine.
- Stepping up onto a sturdy box or stair is another excellent way to develop functional strength.
- Take the stairs every time stairs are an option. It’s easy to increase the exercise intensity of step-ups; grab a bag of flour, suitcase, hand weights, or some water jugs.
Be creative, and while quality resistance training equipment is perfect, you can improvise with items in your home. Take the time to be good to yourself, and follow your exercise routine with stretching and self-massage to reduce pain, improve circulation, and increase flexibility.
Your body will thank you for it, and it will be ready for your next activity!