Lower back pain is extraordinarily common — in fact, it’s been estimated that two out of every three people will experience it at some point in their adult life, and for somewhere between 5 and 15 percent of all American adults, the problem will become chronic.
With lower back pain being identified as the number one reason for disability globally, it makes sense to do everything possible to avoid it in the first place, and studies have shown that one of the top reasons for people to develop lower back pain is weakness in their gluteal muscles.
Your familiarity with the gluteal muscles may be limited to what you learned during your elementary school days, when talking about the “gluteus maximus” was as close as we all came to cursing. Though we thought that was hilarious at the time, the gluteal muscles are no joke. There are three of them, and together they are the largest muscle group in the body.
The glutes are located behind your hips, and it is these muscles that activate every time you contract your legs. When they are strong and working properly, they allow you to stand, sit and move with ease, but when they are weak these simple, basic actions can result in pain. Even before you start to feel twinges in your back, a tendency towards slouching, or pain in your knees or your hips might be an indication that you need to strengthen your glutes.
Here are some exercises that can help you accomplish that goal quickly and easily.
Hip Bridge with Abduction
You may already be familiar with the hip bridge, which is an excellent core-strengthening exercise. It consists of lying face up on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, then lifting your butt up into the air and holding that position with head and shoulders still on the ground for a count of five before returning your rear to the ground. The abduction piece of the exercise provides increased work for the gluteus medius muscles, which are located on the outside of your hips. To do it, place a small elasticized resistance band around your legs above your knees, and while you’re lifting your rear into the air, push your knees outward. Do ten to twelve reps, three times.
Squat with Hip Extension
Here’s another exercise you already know, but with a twist. When doing a basic squat you stand with your feet hip-distance apart, feet facing forward and lower into a squat with your knees over your toes and your butt sticking out a bit to the back. In this version you do the exact same thing, but first place a resistance band under your feet, holding the ends in your hands. When you lower down and then rise up again, put one leg behind you without arching your lower back. The resistance band should remain under the foot that you are standing on and still looped around the foot of the leg that is extended behind you. When you do this exercise you’re working out your gluteus maximum. Return to your original position and then repeat, extending the other leg. Perform this exercise 10 to 12 times for three reps.
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