Lazy Bum: The Importance of the Glutes
Your glutes are an incredibly important muscle group for many reasons, including playing a vital role in your body’s alignment, preventing injury and improving performance. They are the biggest muscles in the body. Most of us just sit on them. But therein lies one of their functions. They protect the bones around the pelvis and the large nerve supply into the legs with muscle and connective tissue.
There are three main muscles in the group – Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The glute max is a large bellied muscle that pulls the thigh backwards and is therefore the primary muscle to propel us forward in walking and running. Glute med and min are smaller and have a different line of pull. They can influence rotation of the hip joint as well as the lateral stability of the pelvis.
Getting your glutes properly fired up and working for you will help you move better, feel better, and kick your training up a notch. When the glutes are not strong enough to do their job of extending the hip and pushing the body forward, other muscles not as well designed for the job take over, compensating for the glutes lack of strength. The hamstrings, lower back, quadriceps and calves may become disproportionately strong -- increasing your risk of injury. Strong glutes also support the back. When your glutes aren’t activating and engaging as they should, your psoas muscle, a hip flexor that runs from the spine to the legs, takes over. An overstressed psoas causes back pain and compression in the lower lumbar vertebrae of the spine.
The majority of people I see have at least one muscle group that isn’t functioning properly. Very often, one of these muscle groups is the glutes. Many of these people can’t even properly fire their glutes without first undergoing some teaching or activation, on one or both sides. If you suffer from tight quads, calfs and/or hamstrings after training with no glute discomfort. This would signal inactive glute muscles.
There are many potential reasons for the glutes being inactive. The first and most common reason people suffer from underactive glutes or lazy glutes is due to lifestyle. Even when people train hard every day, if they spend the majority of the remainder of the day sitting down, then they are simply not using their glutes.
Another common reason the glutes aren’t working properly is due to injury. Often an injury happens that changes the mechanics and motor programming of a person’s body. This can lead to some muscle groups becoming overactive, while others become underactive. This can alter things for a long time without the person even knowing it.
Simply put, glute activation is waking up your glutes. It makes the connection from your brain to your muscle and gets the muscle fired up and ready to do some work. Glute activation should be done prior to your workout, but it can also be done as an active rest between sets.
Check out these 2 simple exercises to wake up those glutes! Whilst performing these exercises, think about those glutes working actively. The mind muscle connection is fascinating and the mind can play a huge role in kicking a muscle into gear. With time, and correct form and activation, the glutes will engage automatically without the need of thought.
The Modified Clamshell
Lie on your side with your head resting comfortably.
Your bottom leg should be straight, with your top hip bent up to ninety degrees and your top foot resting behind your bottom knee. Your hips should be forward, and should remain in this forward position throughout the entire movement to come.
Squeeze your glutes and lift your knee off the ground, keeping your top foot rested on your bottom knee (make sure your hips don’t roll back because they most certainly will try to do so).
You should feel this exercise approximately where your jeans pocket would be.
Repeat 10 times, each leg.
The Glute Bridge
The basic glute bridge is simple, just lay on your back with your knees bent, lifting your hips in the air, slow and controlled, and then back down.
Repeat 10 times
This is an excellent starting point, but you will quickly need to move on to more challenging variations to really get your glutes fired up.
The Cook Bridge/Cook Hip Lift
Get into the bridge position.
Place a tennis ball below your bottom rib on one side, and hug the same knee to your chest, pinning the ball down with your thigh.
Holding onto this position, lift your hips in the air, lower and repeat, 5 times each side.
Glute Bridge with March
Get in to the bridge position and lift your hips in the air.
At this top position, and without allowing any movement at your hips, slowly lift one leg off the ground and hold for two seconds.
Put it down and lift the opposite leg.
Repeat this 10 times, each side, ensuring your hips remain stable throughout the entire exercise.