Unfortunately, there are a number of ways we jeopardize the health of this important muscle group. For starters, our increasingly sedentary lifestyles are leading to what experts call “gluteal amnesia,” in which the butt muscles become overstretched and underused (read: weak). On the flip side, it’s also possible to overuse and overexert these muscles—whether we’re excessively clenching the tush in certain asanas, such as Warrior II or Wheel Pose, or pushing too hard while running or hiking. Not only do under- or overworked glutes affect range of motion in the hips and sacrum, but strength imbalances can also lead to instability or pain when we’re on our mats.
The gluteus maximus (also known collectively with the gluteus medius and minimus, as the gluteal muscles, and sometimes referred to informally as the "glutes") is the main extensor muscle of the hip. It is the largest and most superficial of the three gluteal muscles and makes up a large portion of the shape and appearance of each side of the hips. Its thick fleshy mass, in a quadrilateral shape, forms the prominence of the buttocks.
The three players that make up your glutes are the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. The maximus is pretty much the M.V.P. It creates the shape of your butt and works anytime you raise your thigh to the side, rotate your leg, or thrust your hips forward. The other two, the medius and minimus, work together to aid your gluteus maximus in raising your leg to the side. Plus, those smaller glute muscles help rotate your thigh outwards when your leg is straight, and inwards when your hips are bent. Talk about a dream team! (To learn more about the workings of your glutes, check out The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises!)
If you’ve been training longer than 6–12 months, you can split your workouts into upper- and lower-body days. The most common setup is to train upper body one day and lower the next so that each area gets trained twice in one week. If you train four days per week, you can train upper body on Monday, lower Tuesday, rest Wednesday, and then do upper body again on Thursday, lower body on Friday, and then rest on the weekend.
Stand on your right foot and lift your left foot off the ground. Inhale as you step your left foot backward into a lunge, so that your left knee hovers above the ground. Exhale as you drive through your right heel to rise to a single-leg stance, bringing your left leg forward and up to hip height. Do 10-12 reps. Switch sides. Optional: Load this move by holding a kettlebell at your chest or a dumbbell in each hand.
It has been argued that purposely overtraining for a brief period can be beneficial. One article published by Muscle & Fitness magazine stated that you can "Overtrain for Big Gains". It suggested that if one is planning a restful holiday and does not wish to inhibit their bodybuilding lifestyle too much, they should overtrain before taking the holiday, so the body can recuperate and grow during the prolonged rest period. Overtraining can be used advantageously, as when a bodybuilder is purposely overtrained for a brief period of time to super compensate during a regeneration phase. These are known as "shock micro-cycles" and were a key training technique used by Soviet athletes.