Functional strength: Exercises designed to strengthen multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Instead of a single muscle exercise, such as as bicep curl, functional strength exercises, such as a push up, strengthen all of the muscles in the shoulder simultaneously. When you move normally, muscles work together, so it just makes more logical sense to exercise them together as well.
Your standard lunge does a nice job of making your derriere stronger, but to get glutes that function at their best, you need to start moving sideways, too. You see, when you do a side lunge or skaters, for example, you strengthen muscles in your outer hips. And strong outer hips can help you steer clear knee injuries. Plus, the sideways moves engage glute muscles so they can reap all the benefits of lower-body exercises. Not sure where to start? These exercises will help inspire you to work your glutes at a new angle.
Firstly, let’s establish where your glutes are and what they actually refer to! Your ‘glutes’ — or your gluteal muscles, as they are more formally known — refer to the muscles in your butt. Specifically, there are three major muscles in this area: your gluteus maximus (the main, large muscle that shapes your backside), your gluteus medius and your gluteus minimus (two smaller muscles that assist the gluteus maximus in moving your body).
Most problems with the hip flexors, however, don't originate in a lack of strength but in a lack of flexibility. To understand how these muscles lose their flexibility, imagine someone with a broken arm, her bent elbow encased in a plaster cast. When the cast is removed after six or eight weeks, the soft tissues around the elbow (muscles, tendons, ligaments, and even skin) will have shortened, and the elbow won't straighten out. It will take patient stretching over several weeks to restore the range of motion. Similarly, if the hip is constantly kept in a flexed position—like sitting—for hours every day, day after day, the hip flexors will shorten and shrink, limiting your ability to fully extend (straighten) the hip.
This exercise is challenging and will certainly be beneficial even without weights. If you can execute perfect form with your body weight, you can make the exercise harder by adding weights to your hands, by stepping on an unstable surface with your front foot (balance disc, foam pad), or you can place your rear leg on an unstable surface such as a physioball. You should be able to comfortably perform 2-3 sets of 10 reps on each leg before advancing this exercise.