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Is Your Butt Holding You Back?

A CrossFit Butt

While there are many muscle groups which are critical to CrossFit training performance, none are more important than the glutes. The official, medical term for this often neglected muscle is gluteus maximus  and according to several online references it is the main extensor muscles of the hip 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,” notes Wikipedia. “Its large size is one of the most characteristic features of the muscular system in humans, connected as it is with the power of maintaining the trunk in the erect posture. Other primates have much flatter hips and cannot sustain standing erectly.”  

Anyone who can stand up straight can thank their lucky glutes for this!

“A strong butt is the key to a happy life.”

As far as their importance for CrossFit training, or any other kind of physical exercise or sports, there are no “ifs, ands or buts,” glutes are crucial. Why? According to a recent article in The Wall Street Journal, “Glute muscles are the pelvic stabilizing muscles in the backside that keep hips and pelvis in proper alignment during exercise, and they are keys to performance and injury prevention.”

The author of the book Dr. Jordan Metzl’s Running Strong is a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and he has been quoted as saying: “I often tell my patients, a strong butt is the key to a happy life.” While this praise might be a tad grandiose, almost everyone involved in fitness training agrees on the importance of strong glutes.


Dr. Metzl notes that glutes help generate power for push-off and sprinting and in order to “fire in sequence and with proper force,” this muscle group must be strong. He adds that “weak glutes can lead to a number of injuries around the pelvis and there is a correlation between glute activity and knee injuries.” Strong glutes protect the very vulnerable knee joints.

Four Simple Exercises to Build Glute Strength

In an interesting article found on the website “Breaking Muscle”  about building glute strength, Fitness coach, Cassie Dionne slyly noted, “Your glutes are an incredibly important muscle group for many reasons including preventing injury, improving performance, and helping you fit nicely into your jeans.” Here are her four suggested exercises for strengthening glutes.

  • The Modified Clamshell
  1. Lie on your side with your head resting comfortably. 
  2. Your bottom leg should be straight, with your top hip bent up to ninety degrees and your top foot resting behind your bottom knee. Your hips should be forward, and should remain in this forward position throughout the entire movement to come.
  3. Squeeze your glutes and lift your knee off the ground, keeping your top foot rested on your bottom knee (make sure your hips don’t roll back because they most certainly will try to do so).
  4. You should feel this exercise approximately where your jeans pocket would be. If you feel it here, you’re doing it right!


  • The Glute Bridge

Glute Bridge

The basic glute bridge is simple, just lay on your back with your knees bent, lifting your hips in the air.

  • Mini Band Walks

Put the mini band around your feet – yes, your feet - and walk laterally, trying to move your upper body as little as possible. This is usually a pretty fail-safe way of getting a burn in that pocket muscle.

  • Slider Reverse Lunge

Simply grab a Valslide or a similar tool that will allow you to move smoothly across the ground. Put the slide under one foot, and use that foot to slide into a reverse lunge, and then return to standing. Try doing this exercise after one of the ones above, and just wait until you feel the burn!

Here are two More Glute Exercises

Not to be outdone, Dr. Jordan Metzl also has two CrossFit exercises which he suggests for strengthening glute muscles.

CrossFit jump squat

  • Plyometric Jump Squat

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Squat, bending knees to 90 degrees and jump up explosively and landing softly with your knees bent in a squat. Keep weight back and over heels.

  • Plyometric Lunge

Stand with right foot forward and knees slightly bent. Lower your body until the right thigh is parallel to the floor and the leg is bent at a 90 – degree angle. Spring upward and switch legs, landing gently with you left foot forward. Immediately lower to a lunge again. Spring and switch legs once more.

In order to build CrossFit training performance and avoid injuries which can keep the athlete on the couch instead of the gym, athletes should talk to their trainer about functional activities and specific exercises to build strength in the glute muscles. Remember what the good doctor said; “A strong butt is the key to a happy life!”

Do you have a favorite exercise for building strength in glutes? Contact us and we will share with our other readers.