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Get Great Glutes in Your Fifties and Beyond

As life on earth evolved, we moved further away from highly physical tasks like farming, walking everywhere and climbing. The industrial age brought many advances that made life easier but it also made a good percentage of the population lazier. That’s why I like to use the phrase, “intentional movement.” It’s not like the days when movement was just a natural part of life because you took care of soil, raised cattle, and chopped your own wood to heat your home. Life was more demanding and harder back then, but men and women were a lot sturdier and healthier. We may live longer today, but it’s not necessarily healthier. 

One of the many reasons for poor health today is due to the percentage of the population that have corporate jobs and sit at a desk. If you spend a good part of your day sitting on your butt, those muscles along with many others become weak, and de-conditioned. Our bodies are meant to move and move often and well. 

Sitting for prolonged periods of time also hurts our posture. If you don’t have an ergonomically correct work environment, then you’re likely, rounding your shoulders into a hunched position while your head tilts forward. Another disadvantage of prolonged sitting is that our hamstring muscles become shorter and tighter.  The core muscles become weak, so your lower back is more prone to strain and injury. This is the downfall of too much time on your rump. 

 

Intentional Movement needs to be a part of your life

Intentional movement is scheduling movement into your day, where you make an appointment with yourself to take a brisk walk for 30 minutes, take a boxing class  or go to the gym and lift weights to strengthen and build muscle. 

One of the largest and strongest muscle groups in your body are the gluteal muscles. If you don’t use it, you lose it. Once we enter menopause and beyond, it’s definitely possible to build muscle. Yes, it is easier if you have been exercising all your life and already have a significant percentage of muscle mass relative to body fat. Not too long ago, I watched an interview with a woman who didn’t start to exercise until she was in her late 60’s to improve her bone density and overall health. She joined a gym, got a trainer and he encouraged her to enter a masters level women’s bodybuilding bikini competition. She was 70 years young when she competed. This was never the plan, but she surprised herself by falling in love with the sport and being a role model for senior athletes. 

Here are my top 10 reasons for having strong gluteal muscles

  1. Bone Health: As we age, bone density tends to decrease, putting us at a higher risk of fractures. However, exercises that target the glutes, like squats and lunges, also promote bone density in the hips and lower spine, reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
  2. Joint Support: The gluteal muscles play a crucial role in stabilizing the hip joints. Strengthening these muscles helps to alleviate strain on the hips and lower back, reducing the likelihood of pain and injury.
  3. Improved Posture: Weak glutes can contribute to poor posture, leading to issues like lower back pain and a hunched stance. By strengthening the gluteal muscles, you can better support your spine and maintain a more upright posture.
  4. Preventing Falls: Falls become more common as we age and can have serious consequences. Strong glutes help with balance and stability, making it easier to navigate uneven terrain and reducing the risk of falls.
  5. Enhanced Mobility: Having strong glutes improves overall mobility, making it easier to perform daily activities like climbing stairs, bending down, and getting in and out of chairs. This independence is crucial for maintaining a high quality of life as we age.
  6. Metabolic Health: Large muscle groups like the glutes are highly metabolically active. By working these muscles regularly, you can boost your metabolism and improve insulin sensitivity, which is particularly important for managing weight and preventing age-related metabolic issues.
  7. Pain Reduction: Many common sources of pain in older adults, such as sciatica and knee pain, can be alleviated by strengthening the glutes. These muscles help to stabilize the pelvis and distribute forces more evenly, reducing strain on other areas of the body.
  8. Hormonal Balance: Regular exercise, including glute-targeting exercises, has been shown to support hormonal balance in menopausal and postmenopausal women. This can help alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings.
  9. Mental Well-being: Exercise, including strength training for the glutes, has numerous benefits for mental health, including reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Feeling physically strong and capable can also boost confidence and self-esteem.
  10. Longevity: Lastly, maintaining strong gluteal muscles is associated with a longer, healthier life. By investing in your physical strength and mobility now, you’re setting yourself up for better overall health and vitality as you age.

Five effective exercises for building strong glutes

Squats: Squats are a classic compound exercise that targets the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. To perform a squat, stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing slightly outward. Keeping your chest up and core engaged, lower your hips back and down as if you’re sitting into a chair. Aim to lower until your thighs are parallel to the ground, then drive through your heels to return to standing. NOTE: I like to do squats on the Smith Machine which keeps it safe since the bar slides up and down within a fixed space. You also should have safety locks that can prevent the bar from going past a certain point. 

Lunges: Lunges are another excellent exercise for targeting the glutes, as well as improving balance and coordination. Start by standing tall with your feet together. Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at 90-degree angles. Push through the heel of your front foot to return to the starting position, then repeat on the other side. NOTE: Lunge variations include walking lunges, stationary, alternating front and back lunges or staying on the same side. My favorite lunge variation are walking lunges. If you’re just starting out, practice stationary lunges. 

Hip Thrusts: Hip thrusts specifically target the glute muscles and can be performed with body weight, a barbell, or resistance bands. Begin by sitting on the ground with your upper back against a bench and a barbell or dumbbell across your hips if using weights. Plant your feet firmly on the ground, shoulder-width apart. Drive through your heels to lift your hips toward the ceiling, squeezing your glutes at the top, then lower back down with control. NOTE: To pad your thighs from the weight, use a folded up towel. 

Glute Bridges: Similar to hip thrusts, glute bridges are a great way to isolate and strengthen the glute muscles. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Engage your core and press through your heels to lift your hips toward the ceiling, forming a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Squeeze your glutes at the top, then lower back down slowly.

Step-Ups: Step-ups are a functional exercise that mimics movements we perform in daily life, making them great for building overall lower body strength, including the glutes. Find a sturdy bench or step. Step up onto the bench with one foot, driving through the heel of your foot to lift your body up. Step back down and repeat on the other side. NOTE: Gauge the height of the step by the working leg. If you use your right leg, place it on the step and the angle of your right thigh should not be higher than your hip. Ideally, it should be parallel to the floor at most. For beginners, have the knee of the working leg lower than your hip

Incorporating these exercises into your routine regularly will help you develop strong, functional glute muscles for improved health and mobility. Remember to start with lighter weights or resistance and gradually increase as you become stronger and more comfortable with each movement.

Strengthening your glutes isn’t just about looking good,  it’s about being functional. Although, I will admit, it’s a confidence booster to have a well shaped derriere. 


Keep it safe and always use proper form

If any of the exercises mentioned above are new, I recommend seeking out an experienced fitness professional who has worked with women who are 50 plus. Reducing foods that increase inflammation like processed foods, alcohol, sugar, gluten and pasteurized dairy can also be a game changer for those with joint pain.  The time of peri-menopause to menopause, for some women, can bring about more joint inflammation with hormonal changes. You want an expert to help you modify the above exercises and over time, progress you to being able to the full version if that makes sense for your situation.

Now, go get your sneakers, make an appointment with yourself and go to the gym!


Tags

aging, alignment, bone density, bridges, ergonomics, exercise, fall prevention, Fitness, gluteal muscles, hip thrusters, hormonal balance, inflammation, joint health, lunges, menopause, metabolic health, mobility, pain reduction, perimenopause, posture, sitting, Squats, step ups, strength


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