Gluteus Maximus: Learn Your Muscles

gluteals and piriformisOf the three gluteal muscles, the gluteus maximus is the glamour muscle. It’s the most superficial and the most noticeable. Strengthening and toning your gluteus maximus will get obvious results, unlike the other two gluteal muscles, which are located internally.

Call it what you will–gluteus maximus, butt, bottom, boo-hiney, biscuits–this muscle is crucial for many sports like running and for daily essentials like standing from a seated position.

Location

The origin of the gluteus maximus is on the outer surface of the ilium and posterior surface of the sacrum and cocyx. This includes the sacroiliac joint (tailbone).

The insertion is on the upper posterior area of the femur, iliotibial tract (long tendon) of the tensor fascia lata muscle. This means that the gluteus maximus inserts toward the back of your thigh bone.

Function

The gluteus maximus extends and laterally rotates the hip joint. This is particularly noticable when running. Your gluteus maximus is the muscle that activates to bring your femur behind you for the posterior component of your stride.

The gluteus maximus also extends the trunk. For example, when you stand up from a seated position, it is your gluteus maximus that fires.

All of the gluteal muscles (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus) work together to abduct and medially rotate the hip joint. This happens every time you take a step. In Functional Anatomy of Yoga, David Keil says:

“Every time we take a step forward, we have to stabilize the pelvis and torso relative to the leg. As we walk, our center of gravity shifts from both legs to one leg. As a result, the bulk of our weight pulls us off the standing leg towards the other side of the body. This pull on our body happens primarily at the hip joint. The glutes on our standing leg contract and stabilize the hip. Through their stabilization, they prevent adduction at the hip. If they didn’t contract, we would fall over or we would walk more like primates, throwing our weight from side to side when upright. You could say that preventing adduction is equal to creating abduction even when there is no actual movement occurring.”

Common Dysfunction

As with all muscles, I’m sure you could sprain, strain, or tear the gluteus maximus. However, most of the issues from this muscle are simply from tightness or dysfunctional movement patterns.

As we learned when studying the psoas and quadriceps (rectus femoris), any time you have a tight muscle that connects to the pelvis, you can have an imbalance or instability in the pelvis. This can result in pain in hips, lower back, and knees.

Restoring or Maintaining Health

So much of joint health is balancing the forces. If you have strong or tight glutes, this will create a pull in one direction. To make sure that you don’t get injured, you will need to balance that pull with strong adductors.

In addition to needing opposing muscle strength, we also need flexibility. Do stretches such as Fire log or Figure 4 to stretch the glutes. Chair pose is a great way to strengthen the glutes. If you lift weights, squats and deadlifts are also good strengtheners for this muscle.

More Information

For more information on gluteus maximus, I recommend the article “Gluteus Maximus.” David Keil has a wonderful yoga anatomy book that I enjoy. That book is called Functional Anatomy of Yoga. Here is a link to buy it on Amazon. When you buy this book through this link, I earn a small commission.

Another book that I find helpful is The Concise Book of Muscles by Chris Jarmey. I used lots of information from his book while writing this post. The link I have provided is to an updated version of the book I have. It appears to be a very thorough update, although I have not personally looked through the whole book.

What do you do to strengthen your gluteus maximus? What do you do to stretch it? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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