We talk a lot about the importance of building your core, but your glutes are also incredibly important. If your glutes are weak, it can throw off your balance, your posture, and perhaps even your entire athletic performance.
“When your glutes are weak, they can cause decreased mobility in the hips, and the body then over-compensates for that lack of function and mobility from those two areas, which then leads to improper use of the rest of the muscles and functions in the body,” says Dr. Saadiq El-Amin, an orthopedic surgeon.
But how do you actually know if you have weak glutes? A good way to test them is to do a single leg squat as low as you can go, says Brian Schulz, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic. “Knee flexion to 90 degrees is a good sign that the gluteal muscles are strong enough,” he says.
You could also try what’s frequently known as the Trendelenburg Test, which is typically used to test for hip displacement: ”You stand on one leg and try to hold the pelvis stable, testing the strength on the weight-bearing leg. Gluteal weakness is present if the pelvis tips to the other side,” Schulz says.
Here are a few other signs that might be associated with weak glutes.
1. Knee or hip pain
If your knees or hips start to hurt during a workout, it might be a sign of a larger issue.
“Having aching on the outside of the hip (commonly diagnosed as bursitis) is usually a late sign of weakness in the glutes, while pain in the front of the knee while running is also a common sign of weakness in the glutes,” says Matt Bayes, MD, sports medicine and regenerative orthopedic specialist at Bluetail Medical Group in Chesterfield, MO.
One way to test this is to lay on your side with hip and knee perfectly straight, then extend the top leg backward and perform 5-10 straight leg raises into the air away from the body, he says. If there’s pain, it might be a sign of weak glutes.
2. Poor posture
Slouching is both a potential cause and common indicator of weak glutes. If you have bad posture or if you're hunching over during the day, it could mean you’re in need of some glute strengthening, Bayes says. You might also get lower back pain as a result of poor gluteal muscles and lack of hip mobility.
3. An abnormal gait
Running with a sway to one side or experiencing muscle spasms? If your gait is off, it could be a sign of weak glutes. “A stiff hip joint would usually cause a more severe or obvious altered gait. If there is hip stiffness/poor mobility in the hip joint, it will lead to abnormal movement in all of the hip stabilizer muscles, including the glutes, and eventually pain and weakness,” Bayes explains.
4. Plantar fasciitis
Plantar fasciitis, or sharp pain and inflammation of the heels, is a very late sign of weak glutes, says Bayes. “If a runner has chronic glute weakness causing an abnormal foot strike position during the running gait, it could eventually lead to plantar fasciitis pain,” he explains.
If you have blisters and other foot issues, it could be related to weak glutes. “A new blister could indicate a change in the gait of the runner, and it could be a sign of poor gait/biomechanics from glute weakness such as altered foot striker pattern,” says Bayes. (It’s worth mentioning, however, that this could also just be a sign of a sneaker problem, and you might just need to buy a better-fitting pair of shoes.)
So how should you best strengthen your glutes? You probably won't be surprised to hear this, but you need to start doing those squats and lunges, stat.
“Exercises such as single leg squats, regular squats, deadlifts, monster walks, side laying leg lifts, step-ups and reverse planks are some of the exercises that can strengthen the muscles," says Schulz. "You can also try a challenging lunge circuit, split squats, and deadlifts for some major toning."
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.