The glutes are muscles that connect the lower back to the legs. Tightness in this area can cause pain and difficulty moving, but certain stretches can help.
The glutes consist of three muscles: the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and the gluteus maximus. These support lower body movement.
Keep reading to learn how these muscles can tighten and how to relieve and prevent the issue.
The glutes are muscles in the buttocks. They stretch between the lower back and the thighs and help with movements such as walking, climbing stairs, and squatting.
If the glutes become tight or injured, it can lead to pain in several areas of the body.
A person with tight glutes might experience:
- pain in the pelvis or buttocks
- pain or tightness in the lower back and knees
- sore or tight hips or hamstrings, which sit at the backs of the upper legs
Running, squatting, and other movements that work the legs and lower back can increase any pain or tenderness.
Also, the muscles may feel particularly tight first thing in the morning.
Stretching and strengthening the glutes can prevent tightness, help relieve pain and other symptoms, and reduce the risk of injury.
Many commonplace issues can cause tightness in the glutes. Some contributing factors include:
- experiencing soreness from exercise
- not stretching or warming up before exercise
- exercising with poor form
- having poor posture
- sitting for long periods
- having muscle imbalances
Several stretches and exercises can relieve tightness in the glutes and prevent the issue from returning. For example, a person might try:
Downward Dog is a popular yoga pose. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), downward dog stretches the glutes and other areas of the body, including the:
To perform the stretch:
- Begin in a pushup position, with the hands directly below the shoulders, the legs straight, and the weight resting on the balls of the feet.
- Keeping the legs, arms, and back straight, push the buttocks back and up, so that the body forms an upside-down V shape.
- The neck should be in a neutral position, and the head should stay between the upper arms.
- Hold the pose for 20–60 seconds.
- Return to the starting position and repeat the stretch 2 or 3 times per session.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, the forward-leaning lunge activates the glutes better than a traditional lunge.
To perform a forward-leaning lunge:
- Stand with the feet hip-width apart.
- Step one foot back while bending the other knee at a 90-degree angle.
- Lean slightly forward at the hip, keeping the back straight.
- Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.
- Aim for 8–10 repetitions per side for 2 or 3 sets.
Side-lying leg lift
ACE also recommend this exercise, which can “wake up” the glutes, improve overall stability, and reduce back pain.
To perform the side-lying leg lift, a person will need a pillow. Next:
- Lie on one side, with the head resting on the pillow.
- Bend the top knee so that it comes in front of the body, with the foot resting on the calf of the lower leg.
- Slowly raise the knee upward, keeping the foot on the calf.
- Repeat this 8–10 times per side for 2 or 3 sets.
While stretches and exercises can relieve tightness in the glutes, rest is also important. It may be a good idea to limit everyday activities that worsen pain and discomfort.
A person can perform a test at home to tell whether their glutes are tight. This tightness may be the cause of pain in the back, hips, or knees.
To test whether the glutes are tight:
- Stand on a step or a stable raised platform.
- Shift the weight to one leg and lift the other in front of the body.
- Slowly bend the supporting leg, bringing the hips as far back as comfortable.
- If the supporting leg feels as if it may cave at the knee, this is a sign of tight glutes.
There are a few ways to prevent tightness in the glutes. First, stretching before and after exercise will help.
Also, it is a good idea to warm up the body after the initial stretching with some low-intensity movements, such as walking.
Following a workout, be sure to stretch the legs, glutes, and other muscles. Post-workout stretching can help prevent injury and tightness.
Keep exercise routines balanced, and make sure to include exercises for all the major muscle groups, including those in the legs.
Tightness in the glutes can worsen athletic performance by:
- causing poor form
- increasing the risk of overcompensation
- weakening the glutes and surrounding muscles
- causing back or knee pain
In most cases, rest and targeted stretching can relieve tightness in the glutes and associated discomfort.
However, seek medical care for any severe or persistent pain or swelling.
Having tight glutes can cause pain and discomfort in the buttocks, lower back, and legs.
Injury, exercising without warming up and cooling down, and poor posture are some possible causes of tightness in the glutes.
Targeted stretching and exercise can help relieve tightness and related pain and prevent the issue from returning.