Why Our Glutes are Important
Oh the booty. We all want a nice one right? I mean I think so….. ?? I know I do!
Our booty (aka our glutes) are much more important to our daily lives than just how they look in jeans though. These muscles play an important role in how we move each and every day.
There are 3 essential muscles that make up our “glutes”. We have the gluteus maximus which is the primary mover, the glute medius and glute minimus. Together they all help to extend and rotate the hip in and out. The Max helps extend your leg back and outward as well as help with rotation of the leg outward. The medius helps with in and out rotation of the leg and the minimus basically aids with that too (to keep the explanation short :) ). They also work together to protect the lower back, spine and pelvis (when they are strong).
If you suffer from low back pain, hip pain, knee pain, chances are you probably need to work on the mobility and strength of this muscle group. You may have muscle imbalances or tightness causing you to overcompensate in other areas. If you have joint issues then chances are you have some of these things going on so working on mobility and strength is a must.
Think about this - when you walk these muscles are responsible for your gait in regards to allowing your leg to swing back and the hip to extend, allowing your leg to stay in line and not rotate in our out too much and if you have to turn quickly those smaller muscles of the glute and hip kick in to help you do so. They also help keep your knee in line. If these muscles are weak then your quadriceps and other hip dominant muscles are going to take over and can lead to overuse and overcompensation pain and potential injury in everyday life along with exercise.
To my mommas and mommas to be -
Your body is getting stretched and having pressure put on certain joints and ligaments and muscles that that have never had pressure on them before. For example, a baby not only stretches out the stomach, but then ribs tend to be pushed up and spread more, the lower back ends up getting pressure on it due to the extra weight and possible poor posture leading to tightness, ligaments are lax due to hormones, there is no hiding organs being pushed around too. This can cause all sorts of aches and pains and overcompensating.
That is why ensuring the right muscles are firing and being used as they should can help prevent alot of this pain, not only during pregnancy but for everyone. So that is where the glutes come into play today.
So What Do We Want To Work On To Help?
First you want to be sure you can get an eccentric glute load meaning being able to feel the glutes lengthen when squatting or hinging. Those two movements are essential in every day life.
With a Squat you are allowing your hips to go back and down all the while letting the glutes lengthen then contracting on the way up. If you have lower back pain you may tend to clench your glutes when standing, doing this can cause an issue with learning how to load them in extension. Pay attention to how you stand if you do clench, its OK! just work on relaxing it and add in some foam rolling to losen them.
With hinging (think dead lift or bending over) you want to allow your hips to go back with out the going down motion. Think picking something up. However you need full lengthening again or you will take some of the blunt in your back. This is due to your pelvis taking over as well due to muscle imbalances in your deep rotators of the hip. To ensure this doesn’t happen think about getting everything in alignment from head to toe with posture and your core. Then when you hip hinge maintain a neutral spine. A great way to try this is to stand in front of a wall and allow hips to hinge back until your butt hits the wall. As you are bending over your glutes go back then your upper body. You can bend your knees a little bit once you feel those hamstrings stretching too.
So for both of those think of lengthen glutes then squeeze on the way up to activate. Easy right ? ;)
Here are some great options to try for non pregnant individuals-
laying on your back you will place hands by your sides and slowly lift hips up keeping spine neutral and working to squeeze glutes at the top of movement, Drive through heels and keep big toe down. Hinge hips back down and repeat.
Banded lateral walks
Place a band over your knees slightly. Stand hip width apart and keep feet facing forward. Step to the right with the left foot then the right keeping tension on the band. Take about 12-15 steps then come back to where you started starting with the right foot.
You can use a band over your knees if you wish or practice without. Hold onto something to be able to keep neutral spine and focus first on breathing. Think breathe through diaphragm and inhale and let ribs flare and stomach then exhale it all out. As you sit back into the squat keep your spine neutral dont look down, sit back in heels but keep core engaged by keeping big toes down too go slow and slightly press out on band with knees. Feel the stretch in glutes then stand up and squeeze to the top. Repeat.
As mentioned earlier, stand slightly in front of a wall and plant feet. Breathe deep first and focus on letting hips hinge back first then follow with lowering of the upper body while keeping a neutral spine. Once you feel a slight stretch in your hamstrings you can bend knees slightly to go a little deeper. Slowly start to contract glutes as you stand back up. Repeat.
Once you get these movements down you can start adding external resistance too.
For my Mommas to Be-
Squat with band over knees while holding onto trx or ledge/counter
You place a band over knees hold onto something to be able to keep neutral spine and focus first on breathing. Think breathe through diaphragm and inhale and let ribs flare and stomach then exhale it all out. As you sit back into the squat keep your spine neutral dont look down, sit back in heels but keep core engaged by keeping big toes down too go slow and slightly press out on band with knees. Feel the stretch in glutes then stand up and squeeze to the top. Repeat.
Squat with towel between thighs while holding onto trx or ledge/ counter
Same starting position as other squat but feet with be slightly closer together. Place a towel or medicine ball between thighs, repeat squat motion. You may not be able to get back or as low as before and that is ok just go slow and feel the movement with your breath. Your inner thigh muscles tend to be weaker but need to be strong before we can truly activate your glute muscles and this is a great exercise for that. Remember big toe down and sit back into heels. Breathe, squat, repeat :).
Side lying leg lifts
Side lying is the safest position to be in during pregnancy because lying on your back can restrict blood flow and isnt recommended after a certain time. Side lying can help you practice your breathing as well. But here we are talking activating your glute medius through leg lifts. Lay down on your side comfortably and stack hips ensuring you are not allowing your back to arch raise the top leg up slightly (you can also keep your knee bent like a clam) and squeeze your glutes as you do. Try to really think about using your glutes to do this to lift then control down in the lowering portion. Neutral spine throughout.
Bird Dogs -
These are great for stability and strength. Before you do these though I do ask that you have a solid core foundation with breathing and your able to feel your breath as you are in this position on all 4’s. No diastasis please! :)
To start get on all fours and ensure palms under shoulders and knees under hips. Extend opposite arm and opposite leg out and hold for a few counts. Switch sides and repeat. Using glutes to keep hips down and square and spine in line. Breathe through the movement.
After pregnancy is when I would typically implement bridges and other movements to work on glute activation as they are one of my favorites when done properly. Once you nail and can feel your glutes stretching and contracting you are good to move into typical squats. Always watch for the load and pay attention to each rep. During pregnancy slower is always better.
Achieving optimal glute strength will not only help prevent lower back pain, hip pain and knee pain but it will also help us really ensure we are protecting ourselves when we move during every day life.
In this youtube I speak about and show you how to work one of the neglected glute muscles - the glute medius.
As always if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask! If you are looking for more guidance and just want to get right to it then don’t forget about my lower body mobility fix program you can do on your own time! Find that here!
Happy Bootys everywhere! :D
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