Why our Glute Muscles Matter
Our glutes (aka booty)- they are so important for a variety of reasons.
Not to mention we all want good ones, right???
However our booty is so much more important to our daily lives than just how it looks in jeans. The muscles that make it up play an important role in movement every day.
Our booty is made up of 3 essential muscles that are known as the 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.
Our glute 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).
Oftentimes pain in the lower back, neck, and knees can all indicate weak glutes. Muscle imbalances are common in many adults, especially if you tend to sit alot or do not do much if any strength training.
Overcompensation in other areas is a result. Simply put this means you put pressure on the wrong muscles when the primary muscle that should be doing the work (in this case the glutes) is not working properly.
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. If they cannot lengthen then they will never be able to relax and contract in a way where you can load them and strengthen them correctly.
When you Squat you are allowing your hips to go back and down while letting your glutes lengthen and support the hip. Then you let them contract on the way up.
(think dead lift or bending over)
You want to allow your hips to go back without allowing them to go down as much (depending on the type of deadlift you are doing). With this move you need full lengthening again or you will take some of the blunt in your back. This happens because your pelvis will begin taking over due to possible imbalances in your deep hip rotators or simply tightness (both of which can be fixed with practice and work!).
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. Keep your weight in your heels and big toe. As you are bending over your glutes go back then your upper body (maintaining a neutral spine). You can bend your knees a little bit once you feel those hamstrings stretching too.
Things to look out for –
If you have lower back pain:
It could be because you tend to clench your glutes when standing this can cause an issue with learning how to load in extension. Simply pay attention to how you stand throughout the day, and try to relax!
You could be dealing with tightness in your hips. This can cause your hips to not be able to push back as far as they can or should. Simple hip stretching exercises can help and working on true glute activation can help strengthen your hips.
Your core may be weak – if this is the case starting with something like learning to breathe properly can go a long way. Just keep practicing. It takes time! This blog can help if ya need it!
If you have knee pain:
You may be leading with your knees! Ensure that you are sitting back when you squat.
Pay attention to your feet, are you going more onto your toes or heels? Heels are key!
Do some glute activation work before you start to do full movements. Turn those suckers on first!
Now lets talk about Activation:
It is essentially a form of hinging but easier to isolate glutes and get them to fire.
Perform the movement by – laying on your back you will place hands by your sides 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 slightly above the knees. Stand hip width apart and keep feet facing forward. Leave a soft bend in the knee and slightly hinge hips back (key word slightly). Step to the right side and keep tension in the band, return back to start leading with the left foot. Repeat for a few rounds until you feel the burn in the side of that booty! (here are my favorite bands – glute bands)
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. Sit back into the squat keep your spine neutral without looking down. Aim to keep weight in heels and core engaged by keeping big toes down. Go slow and slightly press out on band with knees. Feel the stretch in glutes then stand up and squeeze to the top. Repeat.
To learn – stand slightly in front of a wall and plant feet. Breathe deep first and focus on letting hips hinge back 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.
All of these movements should always start with bodyweight then move into adding more external resistance. Build up and progress and do not compare yourself to others.