You might quickly stretch your arms and legs before or after a workout, or you might forget to stretch altogether (which is a habit that needs to be changed). One of the most neglected — and important — body parts to stretch is the glutes. It may come as a surprise, but your glutes (aka the three muscles in each of your buttocks) are the largest and toughest muscle group in the body.
Benefits of Glute Stretching
Your glutes play a major role in everyday functions we often don’t think about, such as standing up from a seated position, climbing stairs, or simply remaining standing. That’s why giving your glutes a good daily stretch, regardless of whether you’ve been exercising formally or not, is a great way to maintain glute function and flexibility.
“As an online fitness trainer and a woman, I can’t stress it out [enough] how important it is for women to give their glutes a little love through regular stretching,” says certified female fitness trainer Julie Lohre of FITBODY. “I know life can be busy, but taking a few minutes each day to stretch your glute can make a big difference in how we feel and move.”
For people who have desk jobs or sit for long periods of time, Lohre says stretching the glute can be a game changer. “It helps release that tension, allowing us to move better during sports and in life in general,” he explains. “Women I work with who take the time to stretch, especially through the legs and buttocks, quickly see an increase in flexibility.” Relaxing your gluteal muscles, continues Lohre, can increase your range of motion and even reduce your risk of injury or low back pain.
It’s no secret that stretching can help with general soreness relief, but certified personal trainer Andrew White of Garage Gym Pro says that stretching your glutes can also improve blood circulation and improve overall athletic performance, which is an added bonus for athletes and active individuals. “Tight glutes can limit the range of motion of your hips, which in turn strains the spine,” he explains, adding that that’s how injury and pain can occur.
The Best Glute Stretches to Do Every Day
Glute stretches may not look as easy as stretching other muscle groups like your hamstrings, but once you get the hang of them, they’re easy to do and regularly incorporated into your daily stretching routine. If you have tight or aching glutes, Lohre and White recommend the top six simple glute stretches for maximum flexibility and pain relief.
Sitting Piriformis Stretch
This stretch focuses on the piriformis muscle, a deep glute muscle that can get really tight, explains Lohre.
- Sit on the floor with your legs extended straight out in front of you.
- Bring your right leg toward you and cross it over your left, placing your right foot flat on the floor beside your left knee.
- Place your left elbow on the outside of your right knee and gently turn your upper body to the right.
- Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds, take a deep breath, then repeat on the other side.
If you have knee problems, Lohre suggests being careful about the amount of pressure you put on your knee with your opposite elbow. “Sitting up straight during the stretch, keep your chest and shoulders lifted,” he says.
Pigeon pose is a popular yoga posture that deeply stretches the glutes and hip flexors.
- Start crawling.
- Move your right knee forward by placing it behind your right wrist and placing the outside of your right shin perpendicularly in front of you.
- Extend your left leg directly behind you. Aim to keep your hips as straight as possible.
- If your flexibility allows, lower your upper body toward the ground to deepen the stretch, says White. (Don’t force it, otherwise.)
- Hold here for 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the other side.
Figure-Four Standing Stretch
One of the best glute stretches for your gluteus maximus and medius muscles is the standing figure-4 stretch (or standing glute stretch). Here’s how to do it right, according to Lohre.
- Stand straight with your feet flat on the ground.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee, forming a figure four.
- Gently hinge forward, driving your hips back, keeping your back straight, until you feel a stretch in your right glute.
- Hold for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.
If you have trouble balancing during this stretch, Lohre recommends holding onto the back of a chair, railing, or wall for balance.
Lying Figure-Four Stretch
If the dove pose or standing figure of four feels too challenging, a great alternative is the reclined figure four stretch, suggests White.
- Lie on your back and cross your right ankle over your left knee and gently pull your left knee towards your chest. This will create a stretch in the right glute.
- Hold here for 20 to 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Figure-Four Sitting Stretch
Another variation of the figure four stretch is to create the same position and stretch while seated. “This stretch is a great starting point because it’s easy to do and very effective,” says White.
- Sit on a chair (where your feet can reach the floor).
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee and gently squeeze your right knee while keeping your spine straight for 20 to 30 seconds, or until you feel a stretch in the buttocks of your raised leg.
- For a deeper glute stretch, lean slightly forward at the hips, keeping your back straight.
- Repeat on other side.
If you’re a kickboxing fan, you’ve probably seen high kicks before, or at least seen one before. In fact, the high kick is one of the most dynamic glute stretches, says Lohre.
- Stand straight and raise your arms straight out in front of your body at shoulder height.
- Take a step forward with one foot; as you take your next step, pull the opposite/rear leg up in a controlled arc toward your hands.
- Finish in a gentle, controlled motion to allow the raised leg and leg to return to their starting position directly behind your body.
- Repeat on the opposite side, and switch legs a few times.
“Hamstring flexibility can limit how high you can lift your leg,” says Lohre. “You don’t need to touch your hands or even do parallel movements to still benefit from this stretch.”
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