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Your glutes do a whole lot more than rock those killer pair of jeans. They are essential to your ability to go from sitting to standing thanks to three major muscles — the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. These muscles work together so you can move your hips in multiple ways and stand erect. But as important as they are, unless you give your glutes some serious attention at the gym, they can become underworked and prone to injury.
Strong glutes not only look great, but they also can help alleviate lower-back pain by stabilizing the pelvis. Ditto for knee pain. Building your rear assets also contributes to better performance at the gym or on the track, field or court. Here’s why: Stronger glutes help improve your speed, agility, side-to-side movements and jumping ability. But if you think squats are your only option to create those buns of steel, think again.
Here are three alternatives to incorporate into your next gym session:
Glute Bridge With Leg Extension
Muscles worked: Abs, glutes, hamstrings
How-to: Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hands at your sides. Raise your hips off the mat to create a straight line, aligning your knees, hips and shoulders. While engaging your glutes, extend one leg at a 45-degree angle and hold. Repeat with other leg. Slowly lower back down to the mat.
Barbell Hip Thrust
Muscles worked: Hamstrings, glutes
How-to: Sit on the ground with your back against a bench, feet planted firmly on the floor in front of you. Rest the barbell across your upper quads. Keeping your back and knees stable, raise the barbell by extending your hips, making sure to push the hips upward using your glutes. Raise your hips until your body forms a straight line, then slowly lower your hips to the ground.
Muscles worked: Glutes, quads, quadriceps, hamstrings, lower back
How-to: Set the barbell on the floor in front of you and load it with a manageable weight. Bend at your hips and knees, grabbing the bar with an overhand grip, your hands just beyond shoulder width. Keeping your back straight, slowly lift the barbell, thrusting your hips forward, to a standing position. Squeeze your glutes as you perform the movement. Slowly lower the bar to the floor, bending your knees to prevent stress on your back. Always start lighter than you think you can lift and gradually increase the weight, as needed, with each set to prevent lower-back injury.