Glutes; It's not just about having a good bum!
There is something that we all have in common, from regular folk to elite athletes, we all have bad bums!
Regardless of if I am training a national-level athlete, or a chair-dwelling office worker, there is one area that ALWAYS needs work, this area is a group of muscles known as the posterior chain, and the most underdeveloped of these muscles are the gluteus muscles, or ‘Glutes’
“Why should we care about glutes?” I hear you say.
I’m glad you asked.
Not only is good glute development vital for avoiding PBS (Pancake Bum syndrome), but having well-developed gluteal muscles will also:
- Reduce/relieve chronic back pain in many people
- Reduce/relieve knee and ankle pain in many people
- Provide support to your hips and legs when moving around
- Boost your lower body strength
- Reduce shock on your knees/ankles/hips/lower back when jogging/running
- Increase speed/power/agility in all sports
Or perhaps all you care about is looking better in your undies; if that is the case, let me tell you that there is no other way to fill out a pair of bonds than by owning a good set of glutes.
Enough of the sales pitch, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
The Glutes are composed of 3 main sections;
- The Gluteus Maximus (Glute Max): The big part. This is the engine room of all the muscles that extend the hip, it has (in theory) a very large cross-sectional area, and is capable of producing (again, in theory) a very large amount of force. I say ‘in theory’ because although the Glute Max should be very large and powerful, the sad reality is that the overwhelming majority of people that I see have a hard time switching their glutes on, let alone using them for any feats of strength or power.
- The Gluteus Medius (Glute Med): This part of the glute complex is somewhat smaller, but very important. It is primarily responsible for stabilising the hip during movement, namely to keep the pelvis level during walking.
- The Gluteus Minimus (Glute Min): The smallest section, the Glute Min works in concert with the Glute Med to assist in stabilising the hip
So now we know what’s what and why it’s important, how do we go about growing a bum?
The first issue we have to address is the fact that many people have a hard time getting their glutes to work, and there are a few reasons why.
- Gluteal de-activation: This is the biggest roadblock to achieving well developed glutes, and we all face it on a daily basis. Every time you sit down, you are contributing to deactivation; every hour of inactivity needs to be counteracted with some activity to break even. Luckily, the better you get at switching them on, and the more strength you build, the less time you need to invest to reach the break-even point.
- Lack of use in everyday life: Although this may seem similar to reason #1, it has more to do with day to day activation. Our everyday lives pose physical challenges to our muscles whether we are aware of it or not. Getting in and out of the car, opening doors, climbing stairs, carrying shopping/children, mowing the lawn. All these tasks call upon different groups of muscles to activate so we can seamlessly go about our daily business.
The issue with the glutes is that their function is to extend the hip; this is a vital part of the following actions:
And if we think about how many times per day we perform these actions, we see the issue.
Outside of a sporting environment, the glutes receive very little stimulus on a day to day basis, and if we couple that with the amount of gluteal de-activation we are facing, it’s a recipe for a very sleepy group of muscles.
So what should we do?
Beginning to incorporate basic hip extension exercises into our exercise routines will go a long way towards achieving a more active gluteal complex. The key here is frequency, the more often you can get your bum firing, the easier it will get and the faster you will progress.
Performing even simple bodyweight movements such as the all-fours hip extension, Glute Bridge, and Single leg balance reach, will be a great step toward having a more active, and better looking, set of glutes. These exercises are very basic, very low risk and very effective for activation.
All-fours hip extension
Single leg Balance reach
Double and single leg Glute Bridge
The importance of having a good amount of muscle tone in your glutes cannot be overstated; for good joint health, reduction in lower back/knee/ankle/hip pain, increased sporting performance, or just looking good with no pants on, do yourself a favour and include some direct glute work in your exercise routine.
Until next time…