Yesterday turned out to be a pretty great day, complete with a 3 hour hike to the summit of Green Mountain!
I forgot how tough this hike is, and afterward, my legs were shot! Good thing I only had morning clients yesterday.
Today I thought I’d chat with ya’ll about my favorite body part – the booty!
The glutes are my favorite muscle group to train – I think it’s the reason I love dead lifts so much.
However, the glutes are often mistakenly neglected. We live in a quad dominant world, where most of us (especially women) have stronger quads than we do glutes because of a number of reasons*: we sit all day, making our hip flexors extremely tight and our glutes overstretched. Unfortunately, if you have a desk job, drive a lot, or do something else that requires long periods of sitting, the glutes are in a stretched position, and aren’t being worked.
What we can do is activate the glutes when we aren’t sitting. When we’re standing up, walking up the stairs, and working out – anything that requires hip extension. When I train new clients, almost every one I see automatically relies on their quads to do every major compound lower body exercise – squats, lunges, deadlifts, etc. They’re amazed at how different it feels when I teach them how to fire up the glutes, and let the glutes be the main mover for the exercise. I’ll even go out on a limb and say that a lot of people think they have strong glutes, because of how much they can squat, dead lift, etc. In reality, a lot of people have strong quads and erector spinae muscles, and weak gluteals, because of poor glute activation.
Why does this matter? It’s a lot more than just getting a better rear-end. Having weak glutes as compared to the quads can lead to injury. The most common one I see from weak glutes is an anterior pelvic tilt that leads to lower back pain.
Anterior pelvic tilts can happen from tight hip flexors (and quads) pulling at the pelvis, making it tilt anteriorly. This, in turn, puts pressure on the low back by creating an exaggerated lumbar spine.
Next time you walk up the stairs, think to yourself: am I feeling this in my quads, or in my glutes? And chances are if you’re consciously thinking that, you’ll consciously activate the glutes and feel it in the rear.
So, what can you do to make sure your making the most of your workouts for your glutes? Two things.
1. Glute Activation Exercises
Before every single resistance training workout, I spend about 10 minutes doing a dynamic warm up. About 4-5 of those minutes are spent doing glute activation exercises or movements.
This is one that I always do in my dynamic warm up.
Lie supine on the floor in a bent-knee position with your feet flat on the floor. Engage the abdominals by pushing the lower back into the floor, and maintain this throughout the exercise. Push your hips up off the floor by pressing your heels into the floor. Avoid hyperextension by pushing up your hips too high.
This one is for the core, but it’s also great for activating the glutes.
Start on your hands and knees with your hands under shoulders and knees underneath your hips. Engage your abdominal muscles by bringing your belly button up toward your spine. Keep your spine in a neutral position, and slowly extend the left leg . Lift the leg off the floor until it is at or near parallel to the floor. Extend your right arm, keeping both shoulders facing the floor. Lower both, and continue on the opposite sides.
on the floor, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Place a barbell or weight against the hips, contract the abs, contract the glutes, and push your heels into the ground, lifting your hips upward, until parallel with the floor.
Step on the middle of a resistance band, and take the ends and cross it over to make an X. Grab the opposite end with each hand and hold at the hips. With the knees slightly bent and feet shoulder width apart, take a sideways step with your right leg, and bring your left leg in to step, making sure to keep the feet shoulder width apart at all times.
I also sprinkle glute-activation exercises during my workout at times, too.
Hip thrust on bench
This one I like to do after a compound lift during my workout. Start with your upper back against a bench, your hips on the floor, knees bent, and feet flat on the floor. Place a barbell or weight against the hips, contract the abs, contract the glutes, and push your heels into the ground, lifting your hips upward, until parallel with the floor.
Single-leg hip pops
I love doing this one in between lifts, because there’s not a lot of load, but there’s a LOT of contraction – it basically fires all the muscles in the glutes, plus some hamstring, too. Lie supine in front of a bench one on heel on the bench, and one leg up in the air. Push your hips up until extended, lower, and repeat.
2. Hip flexor/soas stretching
Reverse lunge with overhead reach
From a standing position, step back into a reverse lunge with the right leg, while simultaneously twisting at the thoracic spine toward the front left leg.
From a standing position, curl your left foot behind you, tilting forward as you reach behind you and grab it with your left hand, pull until you feel a stretch, then step forward. Immediately bring the right foot behind you, giving it a little pull with the right hand. Continue this little walk.
Whew! I was also going to add a component about foam rolling, but I think I’ll save that for another day. This post is getting a little wordy! I’m off to teach a core class, and then train a few clients. Full day today
What’s your favorite muscle group to train?
*not everyone has weak glutes compared to quad strength. To know for sure, an assessment would have to be done.