Over 50? Why your Glutes (bottom muscles) are so important and how to strengthen them.

It’s become fashionable to concentrate fitness efforts on developing a shapely bottom.  Hence you will find Pinterest full of Butt Challenges that supposedly help you develop a ‘peachy booty’.  However there are more important reasons than aesthetics to concentrate on exercises that tone your Glutes.  Especially if you are over 50.

What are the key muscles in your bottom?

The Gluteal muscles are a group of three muscles that form your bottom.  They are the Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus.  Glutes is a shorthand term that covers them all.

These muscles are vital for most everyday movements.  As we age we lose both bone and muscle mass.  Your bottom may well be less evident than it was in your younger years.  This is why exercising to engage and strengthen these muscles is so important.  The ‘old person’s shuffle’ you sometimes see, where the feet hardly leave the floor is often due to lack of leg and bottom muscle.  This can be seen in people who have almost no defined bottom.  Looking at them from the side they are flat from the back down to the legs.

Why are the Glutes so important?

The muscles in your bottom are the largest and some of the most important muscles in your body. This is because they are vital to most everyday movements.

 You bottom muscles are important for a number of reasons.  They support

·       Your posture

·       Your power -  because these are some of the largest muscles in the body, by strengthening them you can achieve better performance in most exercises and sports and use up less effort

·       Your balance -  these muscles play a role in supporting your spine and can protect you from knee injuries.

·       Your ability to walk, especially upstairs

What causes weak Gluteal muscles?

The short answer is sitting!  Too much sitting can overwork your hip flexors (the muscles that enable you to ‘fold’ at the hip).  When one muscle overworks a corresponding muscle will underwork.  So your hip flexors become shortened and tight whereas you gluteal muscles become lengthened and weak.

You can improve your posture when sitting. Think about keeping your shoulders open and over your hips and your back straight and from time to time encourage your stomach muscles to get involved, pulling your navel in and your pelvic muscles up, to help you keep upright.  I use a stool with a round base, instead of a desk chair, this means I need to engage my core as I sit and work.  I can also move the base by rotating my pelvis which reminds me not to sit still for too long.  Of course getting up and moving around once every hour and doing some simple heel raises (go up slowly onto your toes and then come down slowly) or climbing some stairs will also help.

However, you also need to think about specific exercises that will work and tone those Glutes.

What exercises work these muscles?

There are a number of simple exercises that can be done at home, in a gym or in an exercise class that work these muscles.  I met a friend recently and she complained about a terrible pain in her left buttock.  I asked her if she had been bowling over the weekend and yes indeed she had.  The bowling action is basically a lunge with a weight. 

Key exercises include:

·      Squats

·      Lunges, forwards and back

·      Planks

·      Bridge, especially single leg

·      Simple clenching of the bottom for a few seconds and then releasing will also wake up those muscles

 Hiking and hill walking are also going to help you develop stronger muscles in that region.

What next?

 Now you know what to do to prevent that flat bottom.  Use some of the lower body exercises in this video to help you start to strengthen those Glutes.