Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 24, 2021

The glutes are certainly a buzz topic in the world of musco-skeletal healing and exercise classes. You may frequently hear that your glutes are tight, and such is the cause of more serious problems throughout your body. Commonly the initial diagnosis could be from lower back pain, knee problems, or shoulder issues.

What Are The Glutes?

Perhaps you have heard quite a lot about the glutes, but what exactly are they? The glutes are a set of muscles that are predominantly located in the buttock area. They include:

  • Gluteus maximus
  • Gluteus medius
  • Gluteus minimus

Gluteus Maximus. The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three muscles and is the largest and heaviest muscle in the body. 

It makes up most of what you see in the buttocks and hip areas. It is very thick and is in the shape of a quadrangle. The gluteus maximus is an essential component of how you keep your upper body erect. It attaches itself to the following bones:

  • Inner upper ilium
  • Ilium crest
  • Lower part of the crest
  • Coccyx

Functionally, the gluteus maximus is responsible for extending and externally rotating the thigh. It has a remarkable ability to extend but only really does so when needed. Usually, it will extend when someone rises from sitting, straightens from a bent position, or walks up an incline. Additionally, it supports the pelvis and trunk.

Gluteus Medius. The gluteus medius lays in between the gluteus maximus and the gluteus minimus. The gluteus maximus covers a third of it, and a layer of fascia (connective tissues) covers the other two-thirds. 

Such covers the gluteus minimus and is triangularly shaped. It originates at the hip bone and connects at the iliac crest, anterior iliac spine, and gluteal fascia. It also varies in thickness.

This muscle is the primary hip abductor. Hip abductors control motion and stabilize the pelvis and upper body to keep the trunk upright. Gluteus medius also helps with internal and lateral rotation when the knee gets extended. It also helps with blood supply and nerve regulation.

Gluteus Minimus. The gluteus minimus acts very similarly to the gluteus medius. It helps with mobility, functionality, blood supply, and innervation (nerve supply) in many of the same ways. It sits underneath the gluteus minimus and is primarily a hip stabilizer and abductor. Its blood supply function goes through the superior gluteal artery and gluteal nerve.

Any sort of damage to this muscle will result in a sinking down of the pelvis. This muscle is fan-shaped and is attached to the femur and thigh. In combination with other hip abductors, it helps to keep the pelvis level as you walk. It also serves to rotate the thigh.

What Happens To The Glutes?

All of the glute muscles work in tandem together. If one component starts to tense up or does not function properly, the others will follow suit. Often, inactivity can impact the synergy between all of these muscles. This inactivity can lead to injuries.

As the glutes attach to the thigh, this can lead to knee injuries. Because the glutes connect to the trunk and back, this can lead to back, shoulder, and even neck injuries. It has been found that sitting for an extended period of time, in particular, can cause glute injuries.

Sitting shortens the deep and superficial hip flexors which sit on top of the glutes. The tightening of the top layer affects the muscles underneath them. Sitting also makes the pelvis rotate in a backward motion and disengages the glutes. 

Finally, it can compress the glute muscles, which cuts off their oxygen supply. This affects the muscles significantly and can happen after very short amounts of time.

What Can I Do To Help Stretch My Glutes?

While stretching and relaxing your muscles is always a good idea, doing daily exercises that help you correct your posture and body movements might be better. 

The most effective type of glute treatment shows you how to use your body in a way that protects you from injury. This way, you can make sure that every day you are effectively using your muscles and not contributing further to your glute injuries.

Posture Exercises. One of the best ways to do this is to start developing a good posture. To help with this, hip stretches are beneficial. Additionally, keeping in mind postural cues and taking the idea of having a straight posture in your daily life can also be of service. An excellent way to start developing this awareness is to rock your pelvis backward and forwards. Doing this familiarizes you with the amount of motion available to you.

Activation of Muscles. Lightly activating your glute muscles regularly can help them become more awake. Having more awake glutes is an advantage because they can help your body have more mobility and generally function better in your daily life.

Squats and Lunges. Exercising your glutes by doing squats and lunges is a very good practice. Perhaps it seems counterintuitive, but the motions of both those exercises are frequently found in daily life. Developing strength and control while doing those motions helps to reset your patterns of motion.

However, it’s not very helpful to move carelessly and forcefully. Make sure to do these exercises with mindfulness and move fluidly.

Show Sources

SOURCES: 

Openhealthclinic: “Its all about the Glutes.”

Physiopedia: “Gluteus Maximus.”

StatPearls Publishing: “Anatomy, Bony Pelvis, and Lower Limb, Gluteus Maximus Muscle.”

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