Gluteal Sets for Strong Hips

Gluteal sets are easy exercises that help improve muscular contractions and strengthen the gluteal muscles of the hip. Strong gluteal muscles help in hip extension as well as stabilization of the joint.

These exercises are very beneficial for patients who have had knee or hip replacement surgery as well as after lower extremity fractures. Any time you are immobile and confined to bed—like in the hospital—is a good time to consider doing gluteal sets.

A woman performing back bridge glut set stretching exercise
Ruth Jenkinson / Getty Images

Why Glute Sets Are Important After Surgery

When you have surgery, you may be required to spend a few days recuperating. Sometimes after major surgery, like cardiac surgery, a total knee, or total hip replacement, you may not be able to move around very well. When this happens, you may have an increased risk of developing a blood clot called deep vein thrombosis (DVT). If a DVT mobilizes in your veins, it may travel to your lungs and be fatal.

Performing the squeezing and relaxing action of your gluteal muscles can help to keep blood moving in your hips and legs. Picture your muscles as sponges; squeezing them helps to improve circulation. This is what is happening when you do a glute set. Flexing your ankles up and down can help keep blood moving in your lower legs as well.

After hip surgery, you may be required to perform gluteal sets to start to gently contract the very muscles that your healthcare provider had to cut through to get to your hip. You may not be able to forcefully contract your glute muscle, but performing gentle gluteal sets can help start the ball rolling with your hip rehab.

How to Do Glute Sets

Gluteal sets are an easy exercise to do. Check-in with your healthcare provider or physical therapist before starting this—or any other exercise program—to be sure exercise is safe for you to do. To do glute sets, just follow these simple steps:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent in a 10 to 15-degree angle
  2. Squeeze your buttock muscles together
  3. Hold for five seconds
  4. Relax
  5. Repeat ten more times
  6. Perform three sets of ten, three times a day

Keep in mind that you should stop the exercise if you feel intense pain in your hips or legs. If this happens, see your healthcare provider or physical therapist. A sharp pain could be a sign of injury or a problem that may require the attention of your practitioner.

Increasing the Challenge

You can create a different challenge to the gluteal set exercise by making a few adjustments. First, try squeezing your gluteal muscles lightly and hold for a few seconds. Then squeeze a little tighter, and tighter yet until you cannot hold your glutes any tighter. Slowly relax. You can repeat this sequence for ten to 15 repetitions.

Another modification is to squeeze and relax your glutes rapidly. Your hip muscles typically work by rapidly contracting and relaxing, and mimicking this type of contraction can help jump-start your rehab sessions and create a functional situation where your buttock muscles are working. By modifying your gluteal sets, your body will remain challenged and you can get the maximum benefit from the gluteal sets.

Once gluteal sets are easy to perform, you may want to go on to more advanced hip strengthening. Exercises like bridges and prone straight leg raises can also help improve the strength of your buttock muscles. This can help improve your bed mobility, walking, and overall functional mobility.

A Word From Verywell

Gluteal sets are an easy exercise to get your hip rehab on the right track. Keeping your hips strong can lead to increased mobility, and the gluteal exercise may help keep you from suffering a DVT after surgery or during a long period of bed rest. Check-in with your healthcare provider and physical therapist, and learn how to properly do your gluteal set exercise to keep your hips strong.

1 Source
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  1. Fortier LM, Rockov ZA, Chen AF, Rajaee SS. Activity recommendations after total hip and total knee arthroplasty. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2021;103(5):446-455. doi:10.2106/JBJS.20.00983

By Laura Inverarity, DO
 Laura Inverarity, PT, DO, is a current board-certified anesthesiologist and former physical therapist.