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Squatting vs. Lunges...which gives you more bang for the buck!

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Did you know the gluteus maximus muscle, or butt muscle, is the strongest muscle in your body? This muscle has the potential to be very strong and help stabilize our lower back, which makes it a very important muscle to be exercised properly.

Most of us are familiar with a squat and maybe even a lunge exercise.squats versus lunges Both of these exercises are common for targeting that glute muscle we are always trying to tone up! But which exercise is most beneficial and really strengthens better?

There is a lot of research about glute strengthening exercises, and as a physical therapist it was very interesting learning about all the different ways to target this area and why different exercises are better than others depending on what an individual is trying to achieve.

Several studies I found used EMG (electromyography) to measure how much glute muscle activation there was with each exercise and the highest percentage of activation was with a exercises that involved hip hyperextension. The front of the hip (hip flexors) must be flexible for the hip to perform hyperextension, so a lot of the research mentioned how important it is to stretch before strengthening the glute region.

The squat exercise was looked at in several different ways with the most glute activation being 67%. The other exercises that promoted the most glute activation were performed in the hands and knees position involving hip hyperextension recruiting 122% of glute muscle power. butt exercisesOther fibers of the glute muscles are firing in this position (gluteus minimus and gluteus medius) making it a great exercise for strengthening.

The glute muscles are easy to strengthen and there are many exercises that can be to performed daily with no need for any equipment or machinery. 

Interesting tip for the athlete: The most important muscle in sports is the gluteus maximus because it facilitates motion like sprinting, leaping, cutting side to side and twisting. Sprinting activates the glute muscle fibers 234% more than a vertical jump! Sprinting involves hip hyperextension mentioned previously, so remember to stretch those hip flexors, hold in your abdomen and perform hip hyperextension exercises to get those glutes really firing! Squats and lunges are great for strengthening but, all in all, the exercises performed on the hands and knees will really strengthen and tone!

Contributed by Krista Magnoli, PTA and Nancy Whelan, PT @ The Physical Therapy Center in West Palm Beach, FLorida.

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