Everything You Need To Know To Relieve Your Painful Gluteus Maximus

If you’ve got a painful gluteus maximus and are craving relief, use these five exercises to stop the pain and feel better immediately.

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Call it what you will—gluteus maximus, bottom, boo-hiney, biscuits—but, when your rear is in pain, you know you’ve got a real pain in the tush!

And, the worst part about a painful gluteus maximus is that it can also cause pain down your legs, in your hip, and in your back.

Plus, whether you’re an active person or more sedentary, you’re using your gluteus maximus regularly. This is because your glute is the same muscle crucial for many sports like running and for daily essentials like standing from a seated position.

So, even if you’re not a runner, even if you just stand up from a seated position; you rely heavily on this important muscle.

Here’s everything you need to know to relieve your painful gluteus maximus, increase your strength, and permanently kiss your hip or back pain goodbye!

Related: Want to learn how to relieve hip + back pain in a flash? Just click here and I’ll send you my secret.

Why do I have a painful gluteus maximus?

It’s true that I don’t know you personally, so I can’t say exactly why you have a painful gluteus maximus. However, for most people, pain in a muscle (any muscle) is caused by:

  1. muscle tightness or weakness,
  2. an injury to the muscle, or
  3. an old injury to a nearby muscle.

1. Muscle tightness or weakness

This may sound odd, but when you’re dealing with your muscles, tightness and weakness are actually the same thing.

You probably already know that if you don’t strengthen your muscles, you won’t get stronger. However, if you don’t stretch your muscles, you also won’t get stronger.

The body requires a balance of stretching and strengthening exercises in order to make whatever muscle you’re working on (the gluteus maximus, in our case) maximally healthy.

Later, you’ll learn a balanced combination of stretching and strengthening exercises, but let’s take a look at the other reasons you might have a painful gluteus maximus right now.

2. An injury to the muscle

Injury is such a broad term. Obviously, if you ripped the muscle or fell hard on your bottom, you would guess that you’ve injured the muscle.

However, even something as simple as bumping your tush into the corner of the kitchen counter can create an injury. (Trust me, I’ve done it.) If you’ve ever done anything to cause a bruise, you’ve done at least a small amount of damage to the muscle tissue.

3. An old injury to a nearby muscle

But, let’s say you damaged a different muscle. Perhaps, you backed into your dining table and bruised the back of your leg. (I’ve done that, too.)

Instead of injuring your gluteus maximus muscle, you’ve bruised the nearby hamstring muscle. Here’s what happens after the injury:

  • The hamstring decides it needs to take some time off to heal, so it recruits help from a neighboring muscle to do its work while it heals.
  • Then, fascia connects the hamstring to (for our purposes) the glutueus maximus.
  • The gluteus maximus doesn’t really know how to do what the hamstrings do, but by golly, they give it a good try. They do their own job plus what the hamstrings do.
  • Then, one day, the hamstrings are all healed.
  • But, in most cases, nothing is ever done to remove the fascia connection between the two muscles. This means the gluteus maximus keeps doing its own work plus work that it isn’t really designed to do.
  • It gets stressed. Over-worked and under-appreciated, one day, it completely flips out and starts causing pain.

It can be really difficult knowing whether an old injury to a neighboring muscle is at the root of you gluteus maximus pain, but it’s still a very viable potential cause of pain.

Take your painful gluteus maximus seriously because…

The gluteus maximus is an important muscle. It helps your body move, but it also helps balance other important muscles.

For example, the gluteus maximus is a core muscle that helps balance your abdominals. This means if your glute max is weak, so are your abs.

Weak core muscles (like the gluteus maximus and abdominals) can lead to pain—specifically in the hips and back.

So, where is the gluteus maximus?

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).

In plain English: Your gluteus maximus muscle begins all around the top edge of the back of your hip. It even begins on a portion of your tailbone.

The insertion is on the upper posterior area of the femur (thigh bone) in a spot called the iliotibial tract of the tensor fascia lata muscle.

In plain English: The gluteus maximus inserts high up on the back of your thigh bone.

What does it do?

The gluteus maximus reaches your leg behind you (extends) and also helps rotate your leg so your kneecap faces out to the side.

walking uses the gluteus maximus muscle

This is particularly noticeable when running. Your gluteus maximus is the muscle that activates to bring your thigh bone (femur) behind you for the back part of your stride.

It also helps you do things like stand up. Plus, it works together with the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus to help you do things like walk up stairs or climb a hill.

5 Exercises to Relieve Your Painful Gluteus Maximus

Remember, you need to do a mix of stretching and strengthening the gluteus maximus. However, before you do, take some time to figure out if old fascial adhesions are your issue.

1. Rolling.

Up above, we talked about what might happen if you had a hamstring injury. That hamstring wouldn’t ever go back to its usual duty until the fascia connecting it to the gluteus maximus was broken up.

Rolling is a perfect way to break up old adhesions and start relieving pain!

Whether you choose an Orb massage ball, foam roller, or tennis ball; you can’t go wrong. Below are the instructions for rolling on the Orb. Click the above links to learn how to roll your gluteus maximus with other tools.

sarah stockett rolling on the Orb to relieve a painful gluteus maximus
  1. Sit on the ball so that your hips are level.
  2. Use your hands to support you as you roll back and forth on the ball.
  3. You can move back and forth, scoot side-to-side, or even draw a circle.
  4. For a bonus piriformis massage, rotate into the ball so that it feels like it’s sinking into your hip socket. Then, open and close your bottom leg.

2. Squat pose.

Plain and simple, an effective squat is one of the best ways to strengthen your gluteus maximus muscle. In my opinion, no one teaches how to do a squat better than the yogis.

With correct alignment, you’ll be able to strengthen your glute max and some other important muscles for hip stabilization.

sarah stockett doing squat pose to stretch a painful gluteus maximus
  1. Stand with your heels outer hip-distance apart. Slightly turn out the toes.
  2. Lift your toes so you can feel the four corners of your feet press evenly into the floor. (The four corners are:  under the big toe, under the little toe, and the inside and outside of the heel.) Hug the muscles of your feet and ankles to the bone to help you stay centered.
  3. Place your hands on your hips and rotate your pelvis so you can feel your SITs bones point at the baseboard behind you. (Your SITs bones are the bony parts of your bottom that press into the floor when you sit on the ground.)
  4. Join your palms together at the center of your chest.
  5. Inhale and exhale through your nose.
  6. As you inhale, feel your spine lengthen and your low belly hug toward the middle of your abdomen.
  7. Exhale and let your SITs bones guide you back and down. As you begin to lower, imagine as if you are lowering into a chair or completing Chair pose.
  8. If you are able, lower so that your triceps (the backs of your arms) meet the adductors (inner thighs). Press your triceps into your adductors and your adductors into your triceps. This will help you stabilize your hips so you can lengthen your spine.
  9. As you move deeper into the pose, focus on lengthening the spine and reaching from your tailbone (which is now pointed on less of an angle, but still not pointing straight beneath you) through the top of your head.
  10. Feel your collarbones broaden and your shoulders slide down your back.
  11. Breathe here for 5-8 breaths.
  12. Press down through your feet. Hug the muscles to the bone, and stand up.

3. Shoulder bridge.

Shoulder bridge is one heck of a gluteus maximus strengthening exercise! Just make sure to keep your hips level throughout the whole exercise. Otherwise, it won’t be very effective.

sarah stockett doing pilates shoulder bridge
  1. Inhale through your nose and exhale through pursed lips.
  2. Begin on your back with your knees bent, heels in line with your SITs bones. (Your SITs bones are the bones that press into the ground when you sit on the floor.)
  3. Engage your abdominals and inhale into the sides of your ribs.
  4. Exhale to lift your hips straight off the ground. Make sure your low back muscles stay strong so your pelvis doesn’t rock back and forth.
  5. Shift your weight toward your left foot and really engage your glutes. Don’t let your hips lower or drop to one side.
  6. Inhale to lift your right leg to Table top.
  7. Exhale to reach your leg toward the ceiling with a pointed foot.
  8. Flex your foot at the ankle. Inhale and lower your right leg. The goal is that your right and left knees match up. This may not be the case. If you feel like your pelvis starts to tilt or your hips start to drop, don’t lower your leg quite as far.
  9. Point your foot at the ankle. Exhale and bring your leg back up.
  10. Do three total lower and lifts before stopping with your leg reaching toward the ceiling.
  11. Inhale to bend your right knee.
  12. Exhale to set your foot down. (Your hips are still lifted and, hopefully, at the same height as when you started.)
  13. Engage your glutes and shift your weight to your right foot. Don’t let your hips lower or drop to one side.
  14. Repeat steps 6-12 for the other side.
  15. Inhale at center. Exhale to lower your hips straight to the floor. That’s one!
  16. Do two or three reps. Make sure you alternate sides as instructed above.

4. Figure 4.

This modification of the yoga pose Pigeon pose is one of my very favorite ways to stretch the gluteus maximus. Plus, it has tons of modifications! This ensures you’ll be able to get a soothing stretch on both sides.

woman doing the yoga pose sleeping pigeon prep

Getting Set Up

  1. Inhale and exhale through your nose.
  2. Begin on your back with your pelvis in neutral, knees bent, heels in line with your SITs bones. (Your SITs bones are those bones you can feel pressing into the ground when you sit cross-legged.)
  3. Before you move, exhale and imaging hugging your belly and low back muscles toward a spot in the center of your abdomen. This will provide support for your low back and help keep your pelvis stable.
  4. Lift your right leg and cross your right ankle just beneath your left knee on your thigh. Make sure the right ankle is off the left thigh. This way, the ankle bone doesn’t press into your thigh muscles (quadriceps).
  5. You have just made a “Figure 4” of sorts. When I was a personal trainer, that’s what we called this stretch, so you may know it by this name, too.
  6. If you feel a stretch, hang out here and breathe.
  7. Hold here for 5-10 breaths.
  8. When you are finished, keep muscular energy as you lower your leg and reverse sequence to do the other side. Be aware that the flexibility of your right side and your left side may differ dramatically.

Choosing What’s Best for Your Lower Body

If you don’t feel a stretch in this position, don’t worry. There are some subtle things you can do with your lower body to produce just the right amount of stretch.

  1. Lift your left foot straight off the ground. Your left knee should move toward your left shoulder.
  2. Make sure your pelvis has not shifted, rocked, or tilted so you can bring your leg up. If it has, lower your foot to the ground and get your pelvis back in neutral. The next time you lift, only lift up part way and place your foot on a prop like a block. (Keeping a neutral pelvis is crucial.)
  3. If you want a little less intensity, place your left foot on a prop like a block or a fat book. For folks with good hip flexibility, you could also place your left foot on a wall. (Make sure your foot is in line with your knee.) Using the wall helps open your hips a little deeper in addition to providing support.
  4. If this feels like a good enough stretch, stay here.
  5. Hold here for 5-10 breaths.
  6. When you are finished, keep muscular energy as you lower and reverse sequence to do the other side. Be aware that the flexibility of your right side and your left side may differ dramatically.

Choosing What’s Best for Your Upper Body

If lifting your legs feels like a good enough stretch, don’t push yourself. There’s no rule that says you have to use your hands.

But, if you want to use your hands to intensify your stretch, here’s what you can do.

  1. You can lace your fingers behind your left thigh so your arms are helping pull your legs toward you. Or, you can place your left hand on the heel of your right foot and your right hand on your right knee. Press your hands toward each other. This should help you get a deeper stretch into your hip.
  2. Also, you can lift your head and upper body to further increase your stretch.
  3. Hold here for 5-10 breaths.
  4. When you are finished, keep muscular energy as you lower and reverse sequence to do the other side. Be aware that the flexibility of your right side and your left side may differ dramatically.

Related: Want to move into an even deeper stretch? Check out Kiss Your Hip Pain Goodbye with the Perfect Sleeping Pigeon Pose.

5. Knee to chest pose.

Another great way to stretch a tight gluteus maximus is with Knee to chest pose.

sarah stockett doing knee to chest pose
  1. Inhale and exhale through your nose.
  2. Begin on your back with your knees bent, heels in line with your SITs bones.
  3. Make sure that your pelvis is in neutral. In neutral position, you should feel your sacrum (tailbone) in contact with the floor beneath you. There should also be a noticeable space in your low back for the lumbar curve of your spine.
  4. Draw your belly button toward your spine to help engage your abdominals.
  5. Keeping your spine and pelvis in the same location, bring your right knee toward your chest.
  6. Lace your fingers across the front of your shin or the back of your thigh.
  7. Bend your elbows to help apply pressure to bring your right leg closer to your right shoulder. As you bend your elbows, feel your collarbones broaden.
  8. Flex your right foot so your toes point toward your shin.
  9. Reengage your abdominals, and slide your left leg straight along the mat.
  10. Flex your left foot so you feel the back of your heel press into the mat.
  11. Breathe and hold. As you do, press your hands into your shin and your shin into your hands. This will create a deeper stretch.
  12. Hold for 5-8 breaths.
  13. When you are finished, set your right foot on the floor and return both legs to the starting position.
  14. Repeat all of the above steps for the left side.

Want to learn more?

If you’re researching the gluteus maximus function today because you have some hip or back pain that you’re trying to get rid of, you’re in luck! I’ve created a course to teach you everything you need to know to permanently ditch hip and back pain. Click here to check out my Spinal Rejuvenation program.

Want to learn my secret to immediate + lasting pain relief? Just click here and I’ll email you your guide.

Kenhub.com is a leader in human anatomy-related information. To learn more about the gluteus maximus, check out their post. It also includes a video!

You can also check out David Keil’s post, “Gluteus Maximus,” or his yoga anatomy book, Functional Anatomy of Yoga. (When you buy this book through this link, I earn a small commission.)

To learn more about the gluteus maximus and other muscles in your body, check out The Concise Book of Muscles by Chris Jarmey. (Again, if you make a purchase through this link, I earn a small commission.)

Do you have a favorite exercise to relieve your painful gluteus maximus? Share in the comments below.

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! I'm a certified Pilates and yoga instructor with a passion for pain relief. I believe you can use simple exercises to relieve your aches + pains. AND, I believe I can teach you how.