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May 20, 2022
Every gym-goer knows that no strength training routine is complete without glute-targeting exercises, as this powerhouse muscle group is crucial to almost all major lower-body movements. However, after putting them to work in the gym, making time for glute stretches is just as important.
The glute family is prone to becoming tight and underactive, which quickly wreaks havoc on nearby muscle groups, including the hip flexors and lower back. Not only do tight glutes, hip flexors, and lower back muscles make it hard to complete your deadlift and squat reps, but that tightness and pain will also occur in everyday movements, like taking the stairs or even standing up from a seated position.
Adding glute stretches to your leg day routines ensures they are warm before exercising and optimally lengthened after your weight lifting session. Using these glutes stretches throughout the day will also counter the effects of sitting for long durations (thanks, desk job).
In this article, we will discuss:
After reading this, you’ll never skip a glute stretching session again.
The gluteus maximus, medius, minimus, and piriformis make up the glute group and provide movement and stabilization at the hip joint, enabling you to perform essential daily activities. They are also crucial for running and weight lifting moves, such as deadlifts, squats, and side leg raises. Each glute muscle plays an integral role in hip movement; however, their functions vary.
Not only is the gluteus maximus the largest and heaviest muscle in the body, accounting for 16% of the total cross-sectional area, but due to its size, it can generate a large amount of force. Located at the back aspect of the hip joint, it is the most superficial of the gluteal muscles.
The gluteus medius is a middle-sized, fan-shaped gluteal muscle located between the gluteus minimus and maximus and originates on the hip bone. It's normally what people refer to as the side/upper glutes.
The smallest and deepest muscle of the glute family, the triangular-shaped gluteus minimus is responsible for stabilizing the hips during activities such as walking, running, or balancing.
The piriformis is a flflat and pyramidal-shaped muscle lies deep to the gluteus maximus muscle. It is also a member of the external hip rotator family.
Because the glutes are such a large muscle group and integral to most lower body movements, they are susceptible to tightness, which can lead to a host of other problems, including:
So, what causes glute tightness? Gluteal inactivity, such as sitting at work all day, can lead to the glutes becoming weak, atrophied, and tight. The glutes then rely more heavily on other lower body muscles, such as the hamstrings, adductors, hip flexors, and low back muscles, and the increased demands placed on these muscles lead to pain and injury1. In addition, bad posture, tight or weak hip flexors (don't forget to do your hip flexor strengthening exercises!), not properly warming up or stretching during workouts, muscle imbalances, poor exercise form, and a tough workout session can all contribute to tight glutes.
The bad news is that when your glutes are tight, it can lead to a long list of issues with surrounding muscles. The good news is that it makes it easy to determine if you need to start a regimen of glute stretches ASAP.
Your glutes are likely tight, if:
Glute stretches may even help speed up your recovery and reduce soreness after a hard workout.
Here are the best glute stretches for before and after your workouts. We will provide info on how to perform the stretch dynamically (before workouts) and statically (after workouts or on off days).
This stretch loosens the entire glute group but does a great job of focusing on the gluteus maximus.
Static: Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times.
Dynamic: Alternate between extending and bending the leg. Bend the knee, hugging it to the chest for 5-10 seconds, and then straighten. Continue for 30 seconds; switch sides.
Only continue forward for as far as you can comfortably go for this gluteus maximus-targeting stretch. If you can't reach the floor, don’t push it. It’s something to work toward.
Static: Hold for 30 seconds, and then switch sides. Repeat 2-3 times.
Dynamic: Alternate between sitting up and gently folding over the crossed leg, holding this position for 5 seconds. Continue sitting up and leaning forward for 30 seconds before switching to the other side.
This stretch hits all three gluteus muscles and is going to help release tension in your lower back.
Static: Hold this stretch for 20-30 seconds. Rest for 5-10 seconds, and then repeat 2 more times.
Dynamic: Hug the knees to the chest for 5 seconds. Lower them back to the ground, and then back toward the chest again. Repeat this movement 10-15 times.
This stretch targets the entire glute family. This move gets bonus points for also targeting the hip flexors, which will lead to better flexibility and range of motion.
Static: Hold for 20-30 seconds before repeating on the other side; repeat 2-3 times.
Dynamic: Alternate between hugging the knee for 5-10 seconds and briefly relaxing it. Continue for 30 seconds; switch sides.
You can modify the positioning by angling the outside of the shin on your bent leg backward and positioning the foot on the bent leg closer to the opposite hip. The stretch targets the gluteus medius, minimus, and piriformis.
Static: Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and then switch legs; repeat 2-3 times.
Dynamic: Lower the trunk to the ground, and then push through the palms to raise the trunk up. Repeat the alternating movements 10-15 times; switch sides.
This muscle will stretch the entire glute family, including the piriformis. As your flexibility increases, you can bring the ankle of the bent leg closer toward the head for an even deeper stretch.
Static: Hold for 20-30 seconds, performing 2-3 times on each side.
Dynamic: Outwardly rotate the bent leg, pulling the knee and ankle toward the chest. Hold for 5 seconds before loosening the grip and internally rotating the bent leg back to its anatomical position. Continue for 30 seconds; switch sides.
When tight, the piriformis can turn your inner thighs more toward the front of the body. This stretch targets the piriformis to help avoid this unwelcome posture change.
Static: Hold for 20-30 seconds; complete 2-3 times on each side.
Dynamic: Move the bent knee across the body, using the opposite hand to pull the knee toward the opposite shoulder. Hold for 5 seconds, before moving the leg back to its anatomical alignment. Keep the knee bent. Immediately bring it back across the body. Continue this movement for 30 seconds before switching sides.
Targeting the glute muscles and the outside of the hips is a particularly great stretch for the gluteus medius.
Static: Hold the stretch for 30-60 seconds, and then repeat on the opposite leg; complete 2-3 sets.
Dynamic: Pull the left leg toward the chest, and hold for 5 seconds. Lower the left foot to the ground, keeping the knee bent. Once the foot touches the floor, grasp the back of the left leg, again pulling it toward the chest. Repeat for 30 seconds; switch sides.
Primarily targeting the gluteus medius and piriformis, this stretch opens the hips and prevents or alleviates hip and low back pain.
Static: Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat on the other side; perform 2-3 times.
Dynamic: Start by standing, shifting the weight to your left leg. Outwardly rotate the right hip and knee, and bring the right foot over the left thigh. Sink into the partial squat, holding for 5 seconds. Stand back up, maintaining balance; keep the leg bent and knee outwardly rotated. Return to the partial squat. Continue the movement for 30 seconds before switching sides.
This move primarily targets the hip flexors, the psoas, and the iliacus, which tend to become short and tight, particularly if you’re struggling with tight glute muscles. To deepen this stretch, contract the glutes while holding.
Static: Hold the position for 30-45 seconds, repeating it 2-3 times. Complete the repetitions on one side before moving to the other side.
Dynamic: Slowly move in and out of the stretch position by leaning forward into the right hip for 5 seconds, and then moving back to the starting position, with the left knee under the left hip and the right foot in front of the right hip. It should look like a slow rocking motion. Repeat 30-45 seconds and then switch to the other side.
This move targets the gluteus medius, minimus, and tensor fasciae latae, although the piriformis and superior gluteus maximus fibers will also get a mild stretch.
Static: Hold the abducted leg for five seconds, before repeating the movement 10-15 times. Switch sides and repeat.
Dynamic: Making sure to keep your movement controlled, you can pick up the pace of this stretch by raising the leg to the side and bringing it back to the midline without holding at the top of the stretch. Raise your leg a little bit further each time.
Referred to as Malasana or garland pose in yoga, it is an excellent stretch for the hips and groin. While it works to loosen your hip flexors, it also strengthens the glute muscles.
Static: Hold for 20-30 seconds, repeating 2-3 times.
Dynamic: Hold the stretch for 5 seconds, and then stand. Squat again, holding for another 5 seconds. Continue for 30 seconds
Sometimes the tension in the glute muscles turns into knots and trigger points that are hard to stretch. The piriformis and gluteus medius are the most prone to developing myofascial pain. Glute myofascial release relaxes the muscles, releasing painful knots and trigger points. You don’t need a foam roller for these exercises, either. A massage ball, or even a tennis ball, can be used to replicate the same movements and reach the deep gluteal muscles.
To target the gluteus medius, rotate so the foam roller hits the side and upper part of the glutes. Work the form roller from the hip joint to the top of the pelvis. To hit the gluteus minimus, slowly lean your weight forward and backward as you foam roll. This subtle movement enables you to work deeper into the gluteus medius and minimus.
Glute stretches should be done a minimum of 2 to 3 times a week. Hold each stretch for at least 15 seconds, up to 1 minute, and repeat 2 to 4 times6. Stretch on days when you perform lower-body exercises. Dynamic stretches warm up the glutes and activate them for exercise, while static stretching after a workout alleviates tension and reduces inflammation. Static stretching is also great to incorporate throughout the day, particularly if you have a job that requires a lot of sitting. This strategy keeps the glutes activated and prevents them from tightening throughout your workday.
Who doesn’t love lower body gym days and butt lift exercises? It’s hard to beat the feeling of pushing your glutes to the max, but just be sure to counter that by spending time on glute stretches before and after strength training. Otherwise, it may lead to tight glutes and hip flexors, causing pain, tightness, and dysfunctions.
And since many of these stretches improve your range of motion and flexibility, you’ll likely also see more gains during lower body workouts. You’ll be able to squat deeper, comfortably abduct further, and perform step-ups with more ease. To further improve your performance, add some glute activation warm-up exercises to your routine.
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