Quad Dominance: What it is and How to Fix it [Under Armour Giveaway #3!]
Posted Jun 12 2012 7:44am
Nicknames have always been a tricky thing for me. First, everyone wants to call me “Char” which I hate because it sounds so ’80′s and also, no, if I’m going to be a Bender I’d for sure be Air and not Fire. (Yes I know Air is taken. This is my fantasy, hush.) If you’re going to truncate my name, call me by the last half — Lottie. Or even “Chari” is preferable. Second, the only thing that rhymes with Charlotte is. . . harlot. Not good!
And yet I’ve always wanted a cool nickname. Isn’t half the reason for playing sports so you can get a pair of sweats with something like “Godzillah the killah” across the butt? (True story – saw that one at Culver’s the other day. It took everything in me not to run up and ask the afflicted teen for the backstory.) Well, I finally got me a nickname! My Lifetime Fitness trainer Steve , and correctional exercise expert, calls me “Quad Dominant”! As in “Stop leaning over your front leg in that lunge, Quad Dominant!” Aww!
At the beginning of May, I definitely was quad dominant. This is a problem because it means that you use your quadriceps muscles (on the front of your thigh) as your primary movers rather than your glutes (your butt), which is really inefficient since your gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in your body. It can also cause functional and structural problems since the imbalance pulls your spine and pelvis out of alignment – and you know the old saying “If your core ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” Or here’s another one to stitch on a pillow, courtesy of Ryan Svenby one of the Vikings cheerleaders trainers: “A tight butt is a tight gut!”
I like strong butts and I cannot lie! This pic is from a massage therapy site which made me wonder if masseuses really massage your butt. (Never had a massage, remember?) And if they do, how does that conversation happen without any John Travolta jokes?
Are You Quad Dominant Too?
Rachel Cosgrove calls this tendency “flat butt syndrome” so I guess I got lucky with Q.D.! But I’m not the only one out there who has this issue. How do you know if you or someone you love are QD too? Well, I’ll tell you what not to do: Don’t walk around staring at people’s backsides to see how flat they are. Like I have been. (Once you know, it’s so hard not to look!)
Nah, basically you need to pay really close attention to your form when you do lower body work like squats and lunges. Do you always feel everything in your quads? Does doing the slightest amount of butt-work like reverse leg lifts make your butt crazy sore? Do you often have tight hip flexors and does your pelvis tip forward (an anterior pelvic tilt)?
While you can get some sense of whether you do these things or not by performing the exercises in front of a mirror, if you’re really interested it’s best to get a professional assessment. You can sign up for one at any Lifetime Fitness , whether you are a member or not! And if you don’t have a Lifetime search for “corrective exercise specialist” in your area. It’s well worth your time!
Because in just one month of doing my corrective exercises — aimed at loosening up my tight right hip and teaching my glutes to “fire” more — I can feel a real difference. And not just when I’m lying on the floor doing my mandatory butt clenches and humiliating myself in public . (See, that should be my nickname: The public humiliator! Actually that sounds like a police record. NVM.)
The first place I noticed a difference was in my running. Since I’m training for Warrior Dash, and I just signed up for a half marathon in a few months, I’ve been doing a lot of training runs. And I’ve found that I’ve started running with my butt! If you are QD you probably have no idea what this means because it’s one of those things you can’t really feel until it happens, but basically it feels more like I’m being “pushed” by my butt than “pulled” by my quads. It means I’ve shortened up my stride a bit and that my form is more efficient so I can run somewhat longer than before. It also means that unlike previous training periods, my hip flexors aren’t killing me after every run.
I’ve also noticed that my splits have gotten easier (splits as in the gymnastic kind, not the running kind. You know you’re a fitness nerd if your first response to “split” is not “banana”!) That might sound crazy at first, but Steve explained to me that when your quads are pulling so hard, it shortens up your hip flexors which pulls the top of your pelvis forward which stretches your hamstrings taut. (Got all that? Quiz later!) People feel their hamstrings stretched out tight and assume that they’re sore from working out, so what do they do? Stretch them more! “You can’t stretch something that’s already fully extended,” he says.
So he’s been having me really work on stretching my hip flexors – think: runner’s stretch and rotational lunges – and by golly this has done more for my hamstring flexibility than anything I have ever done before! I was flexible to begin with but now I can hyperextend both front splits! (Not that I do, I know I’m not supposed to!) Why did I not know this when I was a gymnast?!?
The real test however was when Steve re-evaluated my posture and movement and – ta-da! – declared me cured! Okay, not cured but definitely and noticeably better!
Fixing Quad Dominance
1. Butt work.
Duh. While my instinct would have been to do weighted Bulgarian Split Squats until my cheeks fell off, Steve pointed out that if I’m all out of whack to begin with, adding weight is only going to make it worse. His fave tool is the Black Band of Torture. It’s just one of those black power band loops: Put it around your ankles, keep your toes forward and your knees soft and then walk slowly to the left. Until your butt cheek falls off. Repeat on the other side. Sing the Cha-Cha Slide and if you’re lucky other people will join in.
2. Loosening your hips (which will subsequently loosen your hams).
This rotational lunge (you’re rotating back over your rear leg and also slightly to the side away from your back leg) not only works your butt but gives you a solid stretch too. My knee looks like it’s on the ground but it’s actually hovering.
3. Core work.
And I don’t mean just situps. Steve emphasizes working your core as a whole unit which means working your back as much as your front (Supermans, skydivers) and doing things in all planes of movement (wood chops, side plank).
4. Don’t cross your legs!
Don’t cross them when you’re sitting, standing or even when you’re working out. Anyone else always cross their ankles when doing Russian twists like me? (Anyone else have radioactive – white legs? Steve took off his sunglasses for the pic.)
Okay, so it won’t fix your butt. But it will make it look smoking! I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so many compliments in my life on a single item of workout clothing as I have when I wear my . Plus the back details make all the staring at my butt I have to do much more entertaining. And they’re not just for looks – both my UA tops and pants keep up with every lunge, twist and run I do! Seriously it makes me sad to go back to wearing my old ratty tees when my UA stuff is in the wash. Love love love it.
So let’s get you some too! You can sign up at to win fun stuff and to document your own personal challenge. And just leave a comment on this post to be entered to win a $500 UA gift card! Let me know how you stay motivated to achieve your personal fitness goals.
See, I took the “slash” inspiration from my pants and ran with it!
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