Tight hips are a common side effect of sitting at a desk job and one of the primary sources of lower back pain. Stretching your glutes, it turns out, is equally as important. Studies show that glute stretches and strengthening exercises may have a positive impact on your workouts and prevent injury. The glutes are more than just the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. There are several other muscles within the pelvic region to keep in mind, including the piriformis and the five other deep lateral muscles, which rotate at the hip joint. We talked to Aaptiv Trainers Ceasar F. Barajas and Kenta Seki for their go-to glute stretches.
Seated Figure 4
“This is one of my favorite glute stretches because almost anyone can do it. You can sit on the floor or on a chair,” Seki says. “If you’re on a chair, simply start by sitting up straight with your feet planted. Cross your right ankle on top of your left knee, and let your right knee point out to the right. Make sure you flex your right toes away from you so you engage your calf muscles—this protects the ligaments in your knee from getting strained. Next, lean your upper body forward to whichever degree your flexibility will allow, and hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on both sides, and try to get this stretch in at least three to five times per week.”
You can do this seated by performing the same movements with your right leg over your extended left leg.
“This is definitely one of my favorite yoga poses,” Seki says. “It gives you the double whammy of stretching both your glutes and hip flexors at the same time.” He suggests starting in a seated butterfly stretch on the floor.
“Keep your right leg in the bent position, and extend your left leg straight back behind you like you’re trying to do the splits. Keep your fingers on the ground on both sides of your hips for support, keeping your torso upright. Adjust your right leg so that the knee points out to the right rather than forward. Flex your right foot so the toes point straight out away from you. The farther away your right foot is from your left hip, the deeper the stretch will be. Keep it close at first, and only if you’re comfortable with your flexibility should you work your way to gradually sliding the foot out to a 90-degree angle with your shin parallel to the front of your mat.
Once you’ve found comfortable leg positioning, you can walk your hands forward and slowly lower onto your forearms. Keep your left hip rotated down so that you don’t lean your weight too much into your right hip. I recommend getting this pose in on both legs at least once or more per week, holding it for 30 seconds to one minute while breathing deeply.”
This stretch is one of Barajas’ favorites. “It’s a combination of a twist and a stretch,” he explains.
Start by lying on your back with both legs extended straight out in front of you. Bend your right leg at the knee to a 90-degree angle. Your right shin should be parallel to your hip with your right knee pointing out to the right, as it would in pigeon pose. Bend your left leg at a 90-degree angle as well, and bring it out to the side and back. Your left foot should be almost parallel to the left side of your body and pointing back. Your right foot should be gently resting on your left knee. Grab your right thigh with your left hand and gently try to push it closer to the ground. At the same time, grab your left ankle with your right hand and gently pull it toward you. Remember to breathe through the stretch. Once you’re done, switch sides.
Lying-Down Reverse Pigeon
Another one of Barajas’ favorite glute stretches is this common variation of the pigeon pose. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Cross your right ankle on top of your left knee. Reach your hands through to grip either the back of the left thigh or the front of the left shin. Bring your legs closer to your chest. The aim here is to be able to touch your crossed right shin to your chest but go as far as your flexibility allows. Hold the stretch, and then switch sides. “You need to breathe,” Barajas says. “I would venture between five to seven deep breaths or anywhere from 20 to 40 seconds before you slowly release out of it.”
Seated Spinal Twist
“This stretch is great because it combines a glute stretch with a spinal twist, both of which can decrease back pain and help with posture,” Seki says.
“Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs straight out in front of you. Bend your right knee and hug it into your chest, and cross the right foot over to the outside of your left thigh. Keep your right knee pointing straight up, and try to get the right foot flat on the floor. Place your right hand on the floor behind you for support, and keep your spine straight as you twist your torso to the right. Place your left elbow on the right side of your right knee and gently press on the knee to allow your torso to twist more. Hold the twist for 15 to 30 seconds on each side, and try to get this stretch in at least three to five times per week.”
To get into this position, find a wall or chair and stand next to it. One of your shoulders should be facing the wall. If you have the balance, you can get into this stretch standing anywhere, Barajas says. Lift the leg of the side opposite the shoulder facing the wall. Cross it over on top of your other leg so that your ankle is resting above your knee. From there, with your legs making a figure four, begin to sink down as if you were going to sit in a chair, Barajas explains. Use the wall for support if you need to, and be mindful to not let your knee come past your ankle. To stretch the other side, turn around so that your other shoulder is facing the wall.
Tight glutes are often overlooked for lower back and hamstring and quadricep tightness. Keep ’em loose with this series of glute stretches and watch your workouts improve.