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What client doesn't want shapely, strong glutes?!
Although genetics is a large contributor to the shape of a client's backside, diet and exercise can definitely alter the appearance of a client's glutes.
Consistent yoga practice can improve the look of the glutes simply by correcting posture. However, there are several yoga poses that can help strengthen and improve the appearance of the glutes as well.
Follow along as we discuss basic glute anatomy and five key yoga postures that can help your clients build a stronger booty.
Although many people desire strong, lean glutes for aesthetic purposes, the glutes play a role in several movements and pelvic stability. Also, weak glutes can contribute to knee and back pain—therefore, the glutes should be a priority during training.
The glutes (butt muscles or gluteal muscles) are a collection of three muscles on the posterior side of the body:
The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three glute muscles and is primarily responsible for the shape of a client's butt. It's responsible for hip extension and externally rotates the thigh. The gluteus medius and gluteus minimus are smaller muscles located deeper than the gluteus maximus. They help abduct and internally rotate the leg.
It's helpful to understand the function of each muscle because as your client moves through each yoga pose you can identify which glute muscles are being used (1)(2)(3).
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Weak glutes are a common issue because most people sit all day. Sitting for long periods puts the hips and hip flexors in a constant state of flexion. This makes the anterior muscles of the body tight and shortened and the glutes and hamstrings—the posterior chain—lengthened and loose. Tight hip flexors and weak glutes can cause a lot of dysfunction, such as low back pain, knee pain, or hamstring strains.
Yoga can help clients develop better-looking buttocks, but that’s not the only reason to focus on these poses. Here are a few more reasons to strengthen the glutes:
The glute muscle group helps control knee movements. So, if the glutes are weak or if one side is weaker than the other, the knees do not move properly. This can lead to knee pain.
Studies have found that in groups of people with chronic low back pain, as compared to healthy individuals with no pain, the gluteus maximus is more susceptible to fatigue. This suggests that strengthening the glutes protects against pain (4).
The glute muscle group provides a lot of power to your movements and stability. Strengthening these muscles creates a ripple effect. Strong glutes support a strong core, hips, and legs.
It's common for yoga postures to be held for several seconds, which means the muscles are working to balance and stabilize the body—the postures are more of an isometric muscle contraction. However, flowing from pose to pose or posture repetitions with shorter holds can help incorporate more concentric and eccentric contractions.
The following list includes five yoga postures your clients can do to help strengthen their glute muscles.
Beginning from a standing posture, your client will bring their right knee up towards their core and grip the right big toe (or outside of the foot) with the right hand (a strap can be used if needed). Keeping the standing leg strong and maintaining the grip on the foot, they will slowly extend the right knee out in front of them. When in a stable position, they will slowly open the right hip and rotate the right leg and arm out to the side of the body. Ensure the standing leg is stable and contracted, they will hold the position before rotating back to center and releasing the leg down to the starting standing position.
Your client will begin the posture by sitting on the floor with their legs extended out in front of them. With their palms resting on the ground and fingertips pointing toward the toes, the client will press the bottoms of the feet into the floor, roll the shoulder blades back, and lift the chest and hips toward the ceiling. The spine should be aligned from the top of the head to the pelvis. The client will hold this position and slowly lower back down to the starting seated position.
The client will begin by lying on their back with their knees bent and the bottoms of the feet pressed into the floor. While resting the arms on the floor at their sides, the client will press the hips up toward the ceiling. When the hips are raised, they will bring their hands together under the hips (while remaining straight and on the floor) and clasp them. The client will hold the posture and then slowly lower back down to the starting position.
Want to take this movement up a notch? Try adding a hip trust to your workout. With the hip thrust, the upper body is elevated. This allows for more range of motion. The standard hip thrust is a bodyweight exercise, but clients can add weight with a barbell hip thrust or other variations for a bigger challenge and more muscle building.
The posture begins with the client's belly down and legs extended out behind them. Arms should be resting at the sides with palms facing down and the fingers pointing toward the direction of the toes. With the toes pointed at the back wall, the client will slowly lift their torso so the shoulders and chest come off the floor. The client will lift their arms off the floor and reach back as they lift with their torso. They will hold the posture and slowly lower back down to the starting position.
There are a few different ways to get into the warrior III pose. We'll focus on getting into the posture from a basic standing position.
The client will begin in Mountain Pose (Tadasana) which is a standing pose. They will engage the core muscles, step forward with the left foot and reach the arms up toward the ceiling. They will lift the right foot off the ground behind them, hinge at the hips, and lower the upper body toward the floor, keeping the hips square. With a straight right leg, the client will hinge until their upper body is parallel with the ground (the body will create a letter "T"). The head should stay in alignment with the spine throughout the entire movement into, out of, and during the posture. They will hold the pose and then reverse the movement back to the starting position.
Many other yoga poses help stretch out the hip flexors or strengthen the glute muscles, which can alter the appearance of your client's backside. Regardless of the postures you choose to help your clients, correct alignment and form, as always, is essential.
Do you love yoga? Want to help others learn and benefit from the ancient practice? ISSA's Yoga Instructor Certification will prepare you with the fundamental skills and tools you need to design your own classes!
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Elzanie A, Borger J. “Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gluteus Maximus Muscle.” StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020
Shah A, Bordoni B. “Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gluteus Medius Muscle.” StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020.
Beck M, Sledge JB, Gautier E, Dora CF, Ganz R. “The anatomy and function of the gluteus minimus muscle.” J Bone Joint Surg Br. 2000 Apr;82(3):358-63.
Kankaanpaa, M., Taimela, S., Laaksonen, D., Hanninen, O., and Airaksinen, O. (1998). Back and Hip Extensor Fatigability in Chronic Low Back Pain Patients and Controls. Arch. Phys. Med. Rehabil. 79(4), 412-17. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9552107/
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