When doing a fitness assessment, one of the questions that I ask a woman client is this: What are the areas of your body that you would like to make more fit? The number one--slam dunk--answers are hips (saddle bags) and buttocks (sagging, fat, etc.)! Overfat thighs and triceps (grandmother arms) are close seconds!There is one prerequisite to getting your rear area in gear! You need to make sure your glutes are firing properly! Any personal trainer worth his or her salt wants to help clients prevent injuries and improve quality of life. Improving the client's physical appearance is the fringe benefit of fitness.
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body. The anatomy of the gluteal region (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus) is shown below:
The glutes don't fire properly when the hip flexors (psoas, iliacus, tensor fascia latae, etc.) are overactive or tight. This can happen due to poor flexibility or prolonged sitting. When the hip flexors don't work properly, its antagonist (mainly the gluteus maximus) becomes weak.This is known as reciprocal inhibition (when muscles on one side of a joint become tight or overactive, it shuts down the muscles on the other side of the joint).When a prime mover (such as the gluteus maximus) becomes weak, other muscles (synergists) take over the function that the prime mover should be doing. Some injuries that occur because of inactive glutes are hamstring injuries , piriformis syndrome , knee ACL tears and low back injuries. Okay, enough of the technical stuff!
So, what do you need to do to fire up your glutes?! First, you need to understand why your glutes are not firing properly. They are probably not receiving the neural drive from your central nervous system. So, it is probably not an issue of strength. Their are some exercises you can do to correct this problem. First, you need to lengthen tight muscles. The stretches are listed as follows (use self myofascial release with foam roller before doing these stretches):
1. Hip Flexor Stretch
2. Quadriceps Stretch
3. Bodyweight Lateral Lunges (for adductors)
Then, you need to activate (fire up) your glutes with these exercises:
1. Glute Bridge
2. Opposite Leg Opposite Arm Raise
3. Glute Kickbacks
Lastly, exercise the fired up glutes with these exercises:
1. Bodyweight squats
2. Lateral tube walks
3. Walking Lunges
In the next 4 parts of this series, I will discuss what you are really interested in---shaping up your glutes!