Often referred to as your body’s “powerhouses,” your glutes (a.k.a. the muscles that make up your booty) help you do pretty much everything from strolling around to squats.
But thanks to desk jobs and endurance sports, tight glutes are common. “An imbalance of activity — either too much or too little — usually causes tight glutes,” explains Equinox trainer Sylvia Nasser. If you need a quick anatomy refresher: Three major muscles make up your glutes: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. “Each plays a slightly different role at the hip joint, but largely they stabilize your pelvis to keep you upright and contribute to your ability to stand, walk, run and jump,” explains Jesse Sattler, clinical director of Precision Sports Performance.
Whether you sit all day or log endless miles on the bike or tread, your glutes often pay the price. “Tight glutes not only make the butt feel sore, but can also cause pain in the lower back, hamstrings, and pelvis, create instability, compromise performance, limit range of motion, force other muscle groups to overcompensate and increase risk of injury,” Nasser says.
If you want to work hard and play hard in the gym or out on the road, you must (must, must) take the time to show your glutes some love. Here, trainers and physical therapists who know the booty best, share their go-to glute stretches for keeping your bum muscles long and strong.
Stretching should be part of your warm-up and cool-down routines, but you can also benefit from busting out these glute stretches before bed or when you wake up in the morning too.
1 Lying Pigeon
How to: Start on hands and knees. Pull your left knee toward the outside of your left wrist. Keeping your shin on the floor, rotate your left ankle towards your right wrist so your shin stretches out parallel in front of you. Slide your right leg back so it extends out nice and long behind you. Keep your hips squared and allow your upper body to fold forward. Let gravity do its thing and breathe into the shape and sensation for five to 10 long breaths. Repeat on the other side.
Note: If the sensation is too intense, place a yoga block or folded blanket beneath your hips. (Or try this next stretch, instead.)
2 Elevated Pigeon
How to: Stand as close to a table, box (or your bed) as you can. Lift your left leg up with your knee bent, so your leg forms a 90-degree angle, and rest your knee and ankle on the bed or table in front of you so your knee and ankle rest parallel to its edge in front of you. Hinge forward towards your shin as much as is comfortable, releasing into the stretch with each exhale. After a few rounds of breath, switch sides and repeat.
3 Lateral Hip Stretch
How to: Lie on floor with legs bent and feet flat, arms extended at shoulder height. Drop knees to one side and look over opposite shoulder. Hold the stretch for up to 2 minutes total. Switch sides and repeat.
4 Lying Cross-Body Knee Hug
How to: Lie on your back with both legs outstretched. Bend your left knee in towards your chest, and use your hands to pull the knee towards your right shoulder. Keeping your back flat on the floor, continue to pull the knee as close to your right shoulder as you can comfortably. Hold the stretch for up to two minutes total. Switch sides and repeat.
5 Yogi Squat Pose
How to: Stand with your feet wider than hip-width distance apart, toes facing either straight ahead or slightly outwards. Bend your knees and squat down as deep as possible so that your hips come below your knees. Try to keep your back as straight and upright as possible, pressing your hands together and elbows against the insides of your knees for assistance. Hold for at least five rounds of deep breaths.
6 Child’s Pose
How to: Start on your hands and knees, with your knees planted out wider than your hips. Sit back on your heels so your stomach lowers between your thighs, and reach your upper body forward. Keep your torso long as you continue to press your hips back and your arms forward. If comfortable, rest your forehead on the floor. Hold the position for as many rounds of breath as desired.
7 Kneeling Lunge Stretch
How to: Lower into a kneeling lunge with your right knee on the ground and your left foot planted in front of you. Place your hands on your hips and gently push your left hip towards your left foot. (Keep your core tight!) Hold the position for a few rounds of breaths, switch sides, and repeat.
8 Lying Figure 4 Stretch
How to: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Cross your left ankle over your right knee. Pull your right knee towards you, so your right foot lifts up off the floor. Use your hands to pull your right thigh towards you. (You’ll feel a stretch in your left glutes muscles.) Hold for 30 to 60 seconds before repeating on the other side.
9 Piriformis Foam Rolling
How to: Sit on a foam roller and lean to the right so only your right glute rests on the roller. Roll back and forth over each sore or tight spot for about 30 seconds. Spend up to three minutes on one side before switching and repeating on the other.
10 Lateral Hip Swings
How to: Stand facing a stable surface (like a table, chair, or wall) that allows you to stand tall. With both hands on this surface, lift your right leg out to your right and swing it laterally to the left so it crosses the front of your body. (Picture a golf swing.) Continue for 10 to 20 repetitions, swinging your leg higher and higher as your glute muscles relax. Switch sides and repeat.
This article was originally published on www.womenshealthmag.com