The glutes, or gluteal muscles, can become tight after too much sitting, overuse, or overexertion in athletic performance. Tight glutes can lead to a number of other injuries, so it’s important to warm them up well before exercising. It’s also important to stretch your glutes after you work out.

If you sit at a desk all day, you should stand and walk every 30 minutes. This helps keep your glutes from becoming inactive, tight, and weak over time.

Read on to learn more about tight glutes and what you can do to relieve tightness.

The gluteal muscles help support important functions like:

  • hip rotation
  • walking
  • running
  • going down steps

They’re connected to several other muscles. For that reason, you might experience tightness in the glute itself or you may feel tightness or pain in parts of your:

  • leg
  • back
  • hip
  • pelvis

You may be able to identify tight glutes by the following symptoms:

  • soreness or tightness in the buttocks
  • pain or soreness in the hips
  • tight hip flexors
  • low-back pain
  • tight hamstrings
  • knee pain
  • pelvic pain or instability

The best treatment for tight hips is to stretch them out. You can also work with a physical therapist to develop a strengthening routine for these muscles.

If you sit at a desk during the day, your glutes are inactive. This can lead to weakness and tightness.

Stand up every 30 minutes and walk around. If you have to sit, sit up straight and maintain good posture. Or use a standing desk and switch off between standing and sitting every half hour or hour, if possible.

Glute foam roll

  1. Sit on top of a foam roller with your legs extended in front of you.
  2. Angle your body to the side so that the roller is between your hipbone and sit bone.
  3. Slowly roll out this muscle in all directions.
  4. Reverse direction and repeat on the other side.
  5. Follow with the standing figure-four stretch, below.

Standing figure-four stretch

  1. Stand with one hand on a foam roller that’s placed upright.
  2. Cross one leg over your knee to make a “four” shape and sit your hips back.
  3. Keep a tall upper body posture and your core engaged.
  4. Hold for a few seconds and then repeat on the other leg.

Seated figure-four stretch

  1. Sit upright in a chair, keeping your spine straight.
  2. Cross your right leg over your left and place your hands on your shins.
  3. Lean your torso forward for a deeper stretch.
  4. Hold for 5 breaths and then place your leg on the floor.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Seated twist

  1. Start in a comfortable seated position and stretch your legs out in front of you.
  2. Bring your left leg across the right, placing your left foot on the floor and bending your left knee.
  3. Inhale and stretch your arms overhead, making your spine long.
  4. Exhale and twist to the left, letting your arms fall comfortably to your bent knee.
  5. Breathe in and out and hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
  6. Untwist and repeat on the other side.

Pigeon pose

  1. Start on your hands and knees on a yoga mat. Bring your left knee toward the outside of the left wrist.
  2. Set your shin on the floor with your ankle toward the right wrist. Try to get your left shin parallel with the front of the yoga mat.
  3. Slide your right leg back so you feel a stretch. Then square off (even out) your hips.
  4. If your hips are high off the ground, place a rolled-up blanket, pillow, or yoga block underneath them for support.
  5. Exhale and walk your hands forward, and slowly bring your chest toward the floor.
  6. Hold for 5 to 10 breaths.
  7. Slowly come out of the pose and repeat it on the other side.

Glute bridge

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Place your feet hip-width distance apart and gently contract your ab muscles.
  3. Gently breathe out while keeping your abs contracted and then lift your hips up and off the floor.
  4. Gently contract your glute (butt muscles) and don’t lift your hips past the point of comfort.
  5. Hold for 2 to 3 seconds, inhale, and slowly lower yourself back to your starting position.
  6. Repeat 8 to 10 times.

Glute bridge with band

  1. Place a small, tight resistance band around your calves.
  2. Lie on your back and lift your hips up.
  3. Keep tension in the band and tap your hips down to the floor before raising them back up again.
  4. It’s important to keep your spine straight and make the movement come from the hips.
  5. Repeat 15 to 20 times.

Seated hip abduction with resistance band

  1. Sit on the floor and place the resistance band around your calves.
  2. Bend your knees and keep your feet on the floor.
  3. Place your hands slightly behind you.
  4. Keep your back straight back and press your legs out to the sides as you externally rotate the hips.
  5. Gently, and with control, bring your legs back together.
  6. Repeat 12 to 15 times.

Common causes of tight glutes include:

  • sitting for long periods of time
  • delayed muscle soreness after exercising
  • poor posture
  • poor form while exercising
  • stress on the muscle from striding, jumping, or running
  • not warming up before exercising
  • not stretching after exercising

You can perform a self-test to determine if your glutes have been weakened due to sitting or inactivity:

  1. Stand on top of a step, small stool, or another stable platform. Balance on your right leg and extend your left leg in front of you.
  2. Slowly bend your right leg. As you bend, reach your hips back as far as is comfortable.
  3. Notice if your right leg bends or caves in at the knee. This is a sign of weak glutes.
  4. Repeat on other side.

A physical therapist can also perform a more thorough test for tight glutes. They can help you develop a glute strengthening and stretching routine. They can also give you foam rolling exercises to do at home.

Tight glutes can have a negative impact on athletic performance. Strong glutes are important for running faster and jumping higher. Weak or tight glutes can lead to piriformis syndrome. The piriformis is the muscle behind the gluteus maximus.

You may need to rest from physical activity or ice your glutes if you develop symptoms.

See your doctor if you think you have a serious injury.

Tight glutes are a common problem for athletes who run or sprint. They’re also common for people who work at a desk job and sit most of the day.

It’s important to stretch out tight glutes and keep them active. This helps prevent injury. Practice the stretches listed above two to three times a week to loosen up tight glutes.

For very tight glutes that you suspect might be injured, see your doctor. You may need the help of a physical therapist to develop a stretching or strengthening routine. Massage therapy may also be helpful for anyone experiencing tight glutes.

Always get the green light from your doctor before starting a new stretching or exercise routine.