Fit Friday: Building stronger gluteal muscles

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. Gluteal muscles are strong muscles in your buttocks that help you with normal activities during the day, like walking, standing up, and going up stairs. They also are important for athletes of all kinds, especially runners since they are the powerhouse that propels you forward, and they help with hip and knee stability.

Strengthening these important muscles can help prevent injury and atrophy due to sitting and not activating the muscles correctly.

Hip Bridge on a Stability Ball (Need a stability ball and dumb bell or other weight)

This first exercise works your gluteus maximus, the biggest gluteal muscle. Start by sitting on a stability ball, with a weight on your lap. You can start with a small weight and work up to a large weight. Any resistance will do, even holding a milk jug or weighted ball. Slowly walk your feet forward as you lay back onto the ball. Continue walking your feet forward until your head and shoulders are on the ball and your hips are off the ball. Your feet should be right under your knees, making sure your knees are not hip width apart. The weight is resting on your hip bones in a comfortable position. Slowly drop your tailbone down towards the ground while keeping the ball as still as possible. When your tailbone gets close to the ground, squeeze your gluteal muscles and raise your hips back up to even with your knees. Repeat for 10-15 reps, 1 minute or until fatigue. You should feel the glute muscles working. Keeping your core tight can help you keep the ball still. When finished, slowly walk your feet backwards as you sit up.

Side Step (Can use a band around your ankles to make this harder)

This exercise works your gluteus minimus and medius, which are your lateral movers and very important for hip stability. Start with your feet about shoulder width apart and squat down so your hips are back, weight is more on your heels and knees are behind your toes. Make sure you are not tucking your hips forward-you should have a normal curve in your lower back and your core should be tight (think pulling your belly button to your spine) with your chest up (don't hinge forward from the waist). Staying in this squatting position (don't stand all the way up), step to the left with your left foot and then bring your right foot to the left. Continue this side stepping to the left, staying in the low squat position and keeping your upper body still and controlled for 15 steps to one side and then back to the other side. Continue for 1 minute and be sure to do both sides evenly.