The muscles in your posterior help your body stay upright and enable you to power through workouts, so it's so important for you to know how to get the most out of your glutes. Read on for all the crazy details.
Your Glutes Are a Team1 of 10
The three players that make up your glutes are the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus.
The maximus is pretty much the M.V.P. It creates the shape of your butt and works anytime you raise your thigh to the side, rotate your leg, or thrust your hips forward.
The other two, the medius and minimus, work together to aid your gluteus maximus in raising your leg to the side. Plus, those smaller glute muscles help rotate your thigh outwards when your leg is straight, and inwards when your hips are bent. Talk about a dream team! (To learn more about the workings of your glutes, check out The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises!)
You're Constantly Using Your Glutes2 of 10
"[Your glutes are] one of the workhorses of the body," says Jordan Metzl, M.D., an exercise physician and author of The Exercise Cure. "You use them all the time."
Your glutes help support your body when you stand, help you push off the ground, and give you better balance in general, he says. So when your glutes are strong, every activity you do—from running to golfing to just walking—is positively impacted.
They're BIG3 of 10
Your glutes are one of the largest muscle groups in your body. The extra-cool part: That means that when you engage them, they torch serious calories.
A Weak Butt Can Lead to Injuries4 of 10
When you don't spend enough time strengthening your butt, your other muscles can pay the price, says Metzl.
See, when your butt isn't strong enough to support you during activities the way it should, you put more loading force on your hamstrings, which can injure them or other muscles, joints, and ligaments that your hamstrings come in contact with—like your calves or knees.
Metzl says that when a patient comes in to see him about an injury, weak glutes are often part of the problem.
You Should Work Your Glutes on the Regular5 of 10
Metzl recommends working your backside two to three times a week.
"It's a big muscle group," he says. "It can take it."
Add a little variety to your strength training routine by popping in one these nine moves for a super-toned tush.
You Can Actually Make Your Butt Bigger6 of 10
Your glutes are loaded with muscles that are capable of growing larger. Obviously, if you want those muscles to grow, you need to work them, says Tony Gentilcore, a certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning specialist, and co-founder of Cressey Performance in Hudson, Massachusetts.
To score a bigger booty, he says to start by doing glutes-focused exercises, like the glute bridge and squats, while progressively adding more weight. (Gentilcore says you can do this by holding a barbell or dumbbells on your hips for the glute bridge and by holding a dumbbell in each hand for the squats.)
Your Glutes Don't Like Machines7 of 10
One of the biggest glute-toning mistakes people make is relying on weight machines to tone their butts, says Metzl.
Instead, try functional bodyweight training exercises like those squats and bridges we mentioned before. These moves are more effective at strengthening the layers of muscle in your glutes, he says—weight machines, on the other hand, isolate a single layer.
You Can Work Them From the Side, Too8 of 10
Your standard lunge does a nice job of making your derriere stronger, but to get glutes that function at their best, you need to start moving sideways, too.
When you do a side lunge or skaters, for example, you strengthen muscles in your outer hips. And strong outer hips can help you steer clear knee injuries. Plus, the sideways moves engage glute muscles so they can reap all the benefits of lower-body exercises.
Not sure where to start? These exercises will help inspire you to work your glutes at a new angle.
Concentrating on Them Can Help Boost Your Burn9 of 10
lsa Pataky's trainer, Fernando Sartorius, says that focusing on squeezing your glutes while performing a booty-blasting exercise allows you to activate the muscle group to their maximum potential.
Cameron Diaz's trainer, Teddy Bass, founder of the trademarked booty-sculpting program called Rock Bottom Body, says you should get into a bridge position and memorize what it feels like to really engage your buns—and then try to feel that burn every time you work your butt.
The point: Thinking about squeezing your glutes (and actually squeezing them) while strength-training helps you work the muscles in your butt harder.