What lies behind you are some of the most important muscles in your body. Strong glutes are the key to improving posture, enhancing balance, boosting athletic performance, and looking fantastic.

In fact the entire posterior chain musculature is very important to strengthen in the modern era of increased sitting and inactivity. Research shows that a strong posterior chain (the muscles on the back of your body that cause extension) enriches overall athletic performance and ease of movement, whether you’re walking the stairs, lifting weights, swinging a golf club, or simply getting out of a chair.

Posterior chain exercises, in particular glute strengthening exercises, reduce the risk of injury. Americans spend a staggering $50 billion each year on lower back pain.

It’s the most common cause of job-related disability and a major reason for missed work, according to the National Institute of Health. In other words glute and back training is now widely recognized as one of the most important things you can do to move well and stay injury-free.

Strong glutes encourage hip movement over spinal movement, protecting the back. The technique required during these exercises teaches correct movement patterns promoting muscle unity that also greatly protects the back from injury.

Most of us need to work on the posterior chain. It’s an often forgotten set of muscles. The glutes are the biggest muscles in the human body and due to our mainly sedentary lifestyles have stopped working all together in a large percentage of people due to lack of use.

Dr Eric Goodman, of Foundation Training states “many people are unable to fire their glutes; this “glute amnesia” occurs because the hip joint is externally rotated away from the femur, causing the glutes to sit in a shortened position. Over time they stop functioning as powerhouses and start functioning as cushions.”

If you do workout you might think: I do squats — isn’t that enough? The answer is NO; variety is essential. The glutes create a number of different movements at the hip and thus must be trained a number of different ways.

A good workout plan will include exercises incorporating different movement patterns. Patterns such as hinging, extension, unilateral & bilateral as well as rotational. These motions also need to be performed in different planes of movement with a focus on the fontal plane, as this is the most neglected and common cause of injury.

Below are my three go-to exercises that will build strong, functional and great looking glutes. Done properly these will also protect your back from injury and boost your performance in all aspects of movement:

Bulgarian Split Squats

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand in front of a bench. Place the back leg up onto the bench. Hinge at the hip, sit back and lower your back knee toward the floor. The torso will lean slightly forward keeping the shoulder over the front foot. Press through your front heel to stand up.

Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand tall on one foot with one foot slightly behind you. Hinge forward at the hips, lifting the back leg up behind you until you feel a stretch in the hamstring of the standing leg or until you start to lose postural position. Extend the hips to return to standing.

Barbell Hip Thrust

Sit with shoulders and head supported on the bench or stability ball. Rest a barbell over the front of the pelvis in the fold of the hip joint. Draw the abdominals in and posteriorally tilt the pelvis to engage glutes. Pushing with glutes lift your hips until your body forms a bridge. Do not flare the ribs, squeeze the glutes to ensure the lift is performed through the hips.

Phil Kelly is a health practitioner and expert in body transformation. His services are available at Star Fitness (starfitnesssaigon.com).