A cranky gluteus maximus can cause back pain. Try these seven gluteus maximus exercises to stop the pain and feel better immediately. Bonus: You can also relieve hip pain!

If you're searching for a way to relieve back pain, check out these seven gluteus maximus exercises. Bonus: You can also relieve hip pain! #gluteusmaximusexercises #gluteusmaximusexercisesforwomen #backpainreliefexercises #painingluteusmaximus

Call it what you will—butt, bottom, boo-hiney, biscuits. No matter what you call it, the health of your gluteus maximus directly relates to your overall happiness. If it’s weak or tight, you could find yourself struggling with back or hip pain.

But, if it’s strong and flexible, you can run marathons. Or, at the very least, stand up from a seated position.

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

And do you know what that means? Back pain. Hip pain. Ridiculous sharp, shooting pains from doing something simple like sneezing or tying your shoes.

But, fear not! Here are seven awesome gluteus maximus exercises that will bring you relief ASAP.

Related: If you’re serious about finding relief for your back pain, download your free copy of The Fast + Easy Way to Relieve Hip + Back Pain.

A quick refresher on the gluteus maximus muscle

But first, a quick refresher on where your gluteus maximus is and what it does.

Where is the gluteus maximus?

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

It inserts on the upper posterior area of the femur (thigh bone) in a spot called the iliotibial tract of the tensor fascia latae muscle.

In plain English: Think of it this way, your gluteus maximus muscle begins all around the top edge of the back of your hip and on a portion of your tailbone. Then, it tucks high up on the back of your thigh bone.

What does it do?

The gluteus maximus extends and laterally rotates the hip joint. That’s the fancy way to say that it reaches your leg behind you and also helps rotate your leg so your kneecap faces out to the side.

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

Also, your gluteus maximus extends your trunk. This is a fancy way to say that when you stand up from a seated position, it’s your gluteus maximus that fires and brings you up to a standing position.

But, what happens when the gluteus maximus doesn’t work correctly?

Basically, when the glute max doesn’t do its job, you don’t move as easily. You could also notice back, hip, or knee pain.

Plus, without balance from the glute max, several muscles (like the psoas or rectus femoris) could give a good enough yank to pull your pelvis out of place.

7 Pain-Relieving Gluteus Maximus Exercises

Not all glute max exercises are created equal. I can remember in my younger, vainer days, I poured through fitness magazines searching for the best exercises to tone my tush. They were challenging, and they worked.

Fast forward to when I was trying to recover after having a C-section, and I couldn’t even look at the pictures of those exercises without wincing.

I had to find all new exercises to meet me where I was at physically and strengthen my body.

All of the seven pain-relieving gluteus maximus exercises below are specifically chosen to help you right now—even if you’re struggling with pain.

You can do it! I believe in you. Now, let’s start working that tush.

Related: To make sure you get the best back pain relief, download your free copy of The Fast + Easy Way to Relieve Hip + Back Pain.

1. Single leg lift

Sarah Stockett doing pilates single leg extension
Single leg lift
  1. Begin on your stomach with your fingers stacked on top of each other. Slide your shoulders away from your ears.
  2. Make sure your legs are about a fist’s distance apart and parallel. You should be able to feel your kneecaps lightly touch the mat.
  3. Take a moment to breathe. Inhale through your nose and exhale through pursed lips.
  4. Let the front of your hips settle into the mat. Imagine you’ve got hip pockets on your pants and you want to smooth out all the wrinkles.
  5. Remember to keep your legs straight. Your knees should not bend.
  6. Inhale. Reach from the tips of your toes through the top of your head. Lift your low belly away from the mat. (You’re going to hold this form throughout the whole exercise.)
  7. Exhale and lift your right leg straight off the mat by engaging your glutes. When you do this, you’ll feel your right hip rotate and the top, front edge of your hip will press more into the mat. Remember to keep your knee straight the whole time. You should not feel your left side sink or push into the mat. Also, you want to make sure that you don’t feel any work  (or pain) in your low back. If you have either of those feelings, you have most likely quit supporting with your abs and are lifting your leg too high.
  8. Inhale to lengthen the leg and lower.
  9. Exhale and lift the left leg.
  10. Do 5-10 sets.

2. Heel squeeze

Sarah Stockett doing pilates heel squeeze
Heel squeeze
  1. Begin on your stomach with your fingers stacked on top of each other. Slide your shoulders away from your ears.
  2. Rotate your legs so your kneecaps face out to the sides. Bring your knees as wide as your mat and bend them. Your soles of your feet should face the ceiling.
  3. Take a moment to breathe. Inhale through your nose and exhale through pursed lips.
  4. Let the front of your hips settle into the mat. Imagine you’ve got hip pockets on your pants and you want to smooth out all the wrinkles.
  5. Flex your feet at the ankles, and connect your heels.
  6. Only your heels should be touching; your toes should not touch. This is a common error.
  7. Inhale. Reach from the tips of your toes through the top of your head. Lift your low belly away from the mat. (You’re going to hold this form throughout the whole exercise.)
  8. Exhale and squeeze your glutes. If you’re squeezing really hard, you may notice that your knees lift slightly from the floor. This is not a goal, but it does sometimes happen.
  9. Inhale and relax. Make sure your glutes are all the way relaxed. 
  10. Do 5-10 reps.

3. Seated forward fold

A long time ago, someone told me that muscular tightness is the same thing as muscular weakness. Any muscles that are tight are also weak and vice versa.

That’s why you need to do a mix of strengthening and stretching exercises and poses to improve your gluteus maximus function.

So, here’s one of many ways to stretch your gluteus maximus muscle.

Sarah Stockett doing paschimottanasana, a seated forward fold
Seated forward fold
  1. Inhale and exhale through your nose.
  2. Take a seat and reach your legs straight in front of you. Make sure your knee caps face the ceiling and your SITs bones press into the ground. (Your SITs bones are the bones in your tush that press into the floor when you sit.)
  3. Reach your ribs away from your hips to feel like you’re lifting into your tallest self. From your hips, hinge forward. Keep a straight spine while you let your pelvis hinge.
  4. Place your hands on your calves, ankles, or feet. If this feels uncomfortable, place your hands beside you. Wherever you place your hands, make sure that you are not grabbing anything. Grabbing and yanking will cause injury.
  5. When your pelvis cannot hinge forward anymore, allow your spine to soften forward.
  6. As you inhale, think of lengthening the spine and allowing the pelvis to rotate further. On your exhale, think of softening into this pose.
  7. Reach through your legs like you’re trying to reach the soles of your feet to the wall in front of you.
  8. Hold and breathe for however long feels right to you. This is vague, I know. For some people, it will feel right to hold for 10 breaths. For others, it will feel right to hold for five minutes. It’s your body, so you decide what’s right.
  9. On your last exhale, hug your belly button to your spine, lengthen, and come up to your starting position.
  10. You can repeat this or just practice it once.

4. Hip lift

Sarah Stockett doing pilates hip lift
Hip lift (a little bit higher than I want you to lift)
  1. Begin on your back with your knees bent, feet about a fist’s distance apart.
  2. Reach your arms by your sides, and broaden your collarbones.
  3. Take a moment to double-check that your spine and pelvis are completely in neutral. You should feel your sacrum (tailbone) press into the floor beneath you.
  4. Notice how your ribs and pelvis form a container of sorts for your internal organs.
  5. Inhale through your nose into the sides of your ribs, and activate the muscles that hold your ribs and hips together. Feel muscles in your low back lift as you feel muscles on your belly hug.
  6. As you exhale through pursed lips, press into your feet and engage your core muscles, especially the glutes. Lift your pelvis about half an inch off the mat.
  7. Inhale into the sides of your ribs.
  8. Exhale and lower straight down. If your pelvis moves when you lower down, you probably didn’t quite do the exercise correctly. Try again and make sure to hold your rib-to-hip connection through the whole exercise.
  9. Do 5-10 repetitions.

5. Crescent lunge

The Crescent lunge is one of those gluteus maximus exercises that’s a little bit more complex, so I’ve broken it down into what to do for the lower and upper body.

Obviously, for us today, the form for the lower body needs to be 100% spot-on. However, that doesn’t mean you can just leave your upper body flapping in the breeze.

Sarah Stockett doing crescent lunge

Lower body setup

  1. Begin with your knees bent, fingertips touching the floor on either side of your feet.
  2. As you move, inhale and exhale through your nose.
  3. Reach your right leg back quite a distance so you have a large space between your right and left feet.
  4. Make sure your legs are running parallel to each other like they are on train tracks, not the same rail of a train track.
  5. Reach through your right heel, like it is reaching for the wall behind you. Take a moment to make sure that your right heel is in a straight line and not falling in or out.
  6. Check to make sure that your left knee is in line with the center of your foot. It’s okay for the knee to come forward toward the second and third toes, but it should not go past the toes. Also, the knee should not drop toward the inside or the outside of the foot.
  7. Feel your adductors (inner thighs) scissor and draw toward and past each other.
  8. Hug your low belly toward the center of your abdomen so you can feel yourself lift off of your left thigh without lifting your fingers from the floor.
  9. As you reach through your right heel, feel yourself reach through your leg, spine, and out through the top of your head. Get yourself aligned, and you can feel energy run through you like a current.

Upper body setup

  1. Hug your belly button to your spine, and lift your upper body.
  2. I like to put my hands on my hips to make sure that my pelvis is in neutral and adjust as needed.
  3. Keep reaching your belly button toward your spine, and bring bent arms up so that your elbows are in line with your shoulders and your palms face forward. This is called Cactus pose, and it sort of looks like you’re saying that someone made a field goal.
  4. Soften the space in your upper back that is right behind your heart. As that portion of upper thoracic spine moves, so will your cervical spine (neck). The head and neck should not drop behind the body but should instead be a natural extension from the thoracic.
  5. Reach your arms straight toward the ceiling with palms facing each other. Your biceps (upper arms) should be beside your ears. Your hands should be close together as if you are holding a basketball above your head.
  6. Hold this side for 5-10 breaths.
  7. On your last exhale, bring your arms down on either side of the left foot. Keeping your core engaged, step the right foot up to meet the left.
  8. Reach the left leg back and do the other side.

6. Butterfly

Here’s another great gluteus maximus stretch!

Sarah Stockett doing butterfly pose
Butterfly
  1. Inhale and exhale through your nose.
  2. Take a seat, and bring the soles of your feet together. Make sure that you still feel your SITs bones pressing into the mat. (Your SITs bones are the bones that you can feel press into the floor when you’re sitting down.)
  3. Make sure your right and left foot are pressing evenly into each other. This foot pressure will help your hips open and relax.
  4. Let your heels slide toward your crotch. As your feet move, make sure to keep contact between the right and left foot.
  5. If your knees are higher than your hips, you can sit on a bolster or increase the distance between your heels and crotch. Do what you can to bring your hips higher than your knees.
  6. Sit up as tall as you can, lifting your ribs away from your hips. Hug your belly button toward the center of your abdomen.
  7. Hinge from your hips to lower your upper body forward. Inhale to lengthen your spine.
  8. Exhale to soften. Relax your head and spine forward. Release any sort of muscular tension and melt into the floor.
  9. Hold and breathe for however long feels right to you. This is vague, I know. For some people, it will feel right to hold for 10 breaths. For others, it will feel right to hold for five minutes. It’s your body, so you decide what’s right.
  10. Engage your abdominals and lift up. You can repeat this or just practice it once.

7. Warrior 1

Another one of the slightly more complex gluteus maximus exercises is Warrior 1. It takes a little bit of explaining, so the lower body instructions are separate from the upper body instructions.

Honestly, though, this is quite a bit like Crescent lunge, so it might seem really familiar.

Sarah Stockett doing Warrior 1
Warrior 1

Lower body setup

  1. Inhale and exhale through your nose.
  2. Begin standing with your feet about a fist’s distance apart and your hands on your hips.
  3. Put a bend in your knees, and send your right leg back so that your legs are parallel (as opposed to being on the same line). You should be in a lunge. The bent knee should go no further than ninety degrees.
  4. If you have tight hips or issues with your low back, sacrum, or SI joint, you should have your legs on tracks that are wider than hip-distance apart. For example, I have SI joint issues so when I send my right leg back, I scoot it out to the side of my mat. When my toes lower, they touch the outside edge of my mat.
  5. Spin your right foot to a forty-five-degree angle and anchor your foot to the ground. Feel your toes, heels, and the outside edge of your foot press into the mat.                                                              
  6. Hug your belly toward the center of your abdomen. Feel your rib cage lift away from your pelvis.

Upper body setup

  1. Bring your arms up to Cactus position, with the elbows in line with the shoulder and the hands directly above the elbows. (It sort of looks like you’re telling someone their field goal is good.)
  2. Soften your upper back to let your heart rotate slightly upward. Make sure that you only feel movement from the part of your back in line with the shoulder blades and up. Also, make sure that your head stays in line with your spine.
  3. Reach both arms straight toward the ceiling with your palms facing each other. Your biceps (front part of your upper arm) should be right beside your ears.
  4. Slide your shoulder blades away from your ears.
  5. Hold for 5-8 breaths.
  6. Exhale your arms down around your left foot.
  7. Lift your low belly. Step the right foot up beside the left.
  8. Switch sides.

Bonus exercises!

If you’d like five more completely different exercises, check out Everything You Need To Know To Relieve Your Painful Gluteus Maximus.

Want to Learn More?

If you’re looking for gluteus maximus exercises 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.

Or, if you’d like a free sample of what you’ll learn in the course, click here to download your copy of The Fast + Easy Way to Relieve Hip + Back Pain.

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 some favorite gluteus maximus exercises? Leave a comment below to share with the group.

About Sarah Stockett

Hi, I'm Sarah! After experimenting with the very best and easiest ways to relieve hip + back pain, I figured out a powerful combination of exercises to ditch pain and get back to living a completely active life. Are you ready to get started?

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