Besides being the “butt” of many jokes, the gluteus maximus is the largest and most superficial of the three gluteal muscles. It makes up a large portion of the shape and appearance of the hips. Its size is unique to humans; no other mammal has such expansive rear area, as pointed out in the classic reference book, Trail Guide to the Body by Andrew Biel. Perhaps this is why we are apt to laugh about it? All jokes aside, it’s important for us to give attention to this major muscle in order to maintain healthy posture and a happy lower back. When the gluteus maximus is unhealthy, adhered or possessing swarms of trigger points, it can start a game of tug-of-war with the lower back muscles, especially quadratus lumborum (QL).

The gluteus maximus is a powerful hip extensor.

The gluteus maximus is a powerful hip extensor.

The gluteus maximus is often referred to as “the sleeping giant” due to the fact that this large muscle, which has the potential to be the strongest in the body, is usually weak and misused. Let’s get familiar with some of the specifics of the gluteus maximus (GM) to understand why this is. The GM originates on the outer surface of ilium behind posterior gluteal line and posterior third of iliac crest lumbar fascia, lateral mass of sacrum, sacrotuberous ligament and coccyx. It inserts into the gluteal tuberosity of femur and the iliotibial (IT) band. It’s most powerful action is hip extension, or increasing the angle between the pelvis and femur, with assistance by the biceps femoris (long head), semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and adductor magnus. The lower part of the muscle also acts as an adductor and external rotator of the limb. The upper fibers fire-up to abduct the hips.

Tightness of the gluteus maximus and other external hip rotators can also create the too common “duck feet” problem. The GM, so helpful when walking, standing or running, also gradually loses tone when sitting too much, especially with poor posture. Our modern, chair-laden lifestyle causes an inhibition and delayed activation of the gluteal muscles which in time leads to weakness. When the GM is weak, the hamstrings and low back muscles often compensate.

Just because a muscle is tight and short does not mean that it is strong. As a massage therapist in the exercise-obsessed state of Colorado, I see many clients with overly tight and adhered gluteus maximus. Many tight GMs are still weak because they haven’t been trained properly, or they have been inhibited by the aforementioned curse of the chair. Even strong and properly utilized gluteals are too often bound tight, which can restrict the optimal range of motion of the surrounding joints.

It wasn’t until I heard Jill Miller teach the use of Yoga Tune Up® balls to create “fluffy butt” that I understood that we can have gluteal tissues that are both super strong AND relaxed and hydrated. To the athletic set who are convinced that “buns of steel” is the ideal, I am here to tell you to trade in your buns of steel for fluffy buttocks.

Come back Friday for my favorite GM specific techniques for your fluffiest backside. Your rear end (and low back and hammies) will thank you!

 

Enjoyed this article? Read One Less Pain in the Butt.

Elise Fabricant

Elise Fabricant, of Denver, CO, has been practicing yoga since 1993 and sharing her love of it by teaching since 2002. Her friendly, down-to-earth approach to teaching has helped make it accessible to hundreds of people of all ages and abilities. Elise has also been a full-time massage therapist since 2008. Everyday she is overjoyed to help her clients feel more calm and open. It is Elise's aim as a yoga teacher and massage therapist to enable students' body-awareness, relationship with breath, and compassionate attitude towards themselves and the world around them. Searching for a modality to bridge her worlds of yoga and massage, Elise was thrilled to stumble upon Yoga Tune Up. With Yoga Tune Up's self-empowering exercises that fuse traditional yoga with other modalities, Elise is now able to gift her students even greater range of motion, ease and fluidity in their bodies.

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veronique richard

Bj, tell me how to work the max gluteus in his low part, the suspensor of the iliaquewhen i m on the run please.

Nice day

Rachel Taylor

I’m curious about whether the combination of super strong and also hydrated and relaxed is unique to the gluteus maximus, or if that is the kind of balance we should be seeking in our musculature in general.

Georgia

Love this article! I am a massage therapist also, and so often, I have to help my client strengthen the “short tight” muscle before we can get proper flexibility out of it. We need to work out our weak-ass muscles! I love the buttock lifts for this!

Michele

I have discovered that using the Yoga Tune Up balls against the wall is a great way to roll out my Glut Max. I have also used the Coregeous ball against the wall, straight after my bath (in the privacy of the bathroom where I can use it directly on my skin). The advantage of this is that the muscle is already relaxed and skin hydrated by the warm bath, so fluffing becomes that much easier!

Becky

I have been suffering with sleepy glutes lately myself and have felt first hand the knock on effect of pain and discomfort. This article is a lovely reminder that its about quality and taking care of them in every way not just about the aesthetics!

Lindsey Rockett

Hi Elise!

Great article! Thank you for this short and sweet statement:
“Just because a muscle is tight and short does not mean that it is strong.”

Rinse, repeat…right?!? So many of my students strive for an aesthetic ideal that doesn’t actually improve functionality. In fact, buns of steel often undermines them contributing to crankiness in the low back. I’ll definitely employ your advice and impart the need for fluffy buttocks!

Ekaterina

What a great piece of information. Being a long time butt-builder in the gym (not too successful though) I’ve implemented pretty much all conventional recommendations that are out there. No significant improvement. That made me roam through Internet articles in search of deeper understanding of the bio mechanics in the bum-department. GM load and release relationship is a valuable take away. And the extensive picture on what different actions GM muscle’s fibers perform allows me to get away from all-so-familiar butt exercises and create my own rational routine, base on pure anatomy.

Katherine Streeton

Karolina Hess, besides rolling out our glutes, one of the best things we can do is strengthen our glutes through progressive overload in the gym. Bodyweight exercises such as glute bridges (without hyperextending the hips) and side lying clam shells can be great to train that mind-muscle connection. Many women tend to be quad dominant and have a hard time feeling their glutes when they train. From my own experience waking up my sleeping glutes by learning how to activate them has played a huge difference in my performance. Hope this helps!

Katherine Streeton

“Just because a muscle is tight and short does not mean that it is strong.” Totally agree with this sentence! Besides rolling out our glutes, one of the best things we can do is strengthen our glutes through progressive overload in the gym. Bodyweight exercises such as glute bridges (without hyperextending the hips) and side lying clam shells can be great to train that mind-muscle connection. Many women tend to be quad dominant and have a hard time feeling their glutes when they train. From my own experience waking up my sleeping glutes by learning how to activate them has… Read more »