BUTTS …and I’m not talking about the road up from Eastgate!
Over the last couple of weeks training – I have neglected my Blog (sorry) but I have realised that I have definitely been neglecting some good strength exercise for my gluteals! Having worked predominantly in a desk job for fourteen years involved in intensive analysis work, I tend to get ‘in the zone’ and not take enough breaks.. so my glutes are over-stretched and weak! This means they are not very responsive when called on in my running demands…which becomes particularly noticeable in more hilly terrain and when I need more power. I am sure I am not the only one…in fact I know it from what I have seen!
Over time we, as in the human species, have adopted too many seated characteristics in our everyday lives. Given we spend so much time on our backsides, our bodies have become less able to engage and work the glutes properly.
This is because the more time we spend sitting (think desk job…), the tighter/shorter our hip flexors become and the longer or more stretched our glute muscles get – when your muscles stretch it makes it harder to activate them!
So if you want your butt to be nice and firm, tight and toned (as well as avoiding unnecessary back and hip pain), then it’s essential to learn to engage your glutes and balance them with your hip flexors.
The largest muscle in the human body is the gluteus maximus. It is the uppermost of the three gluteal muscles that make up the human buttocks; the other two are gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. According to some definitions, it is the most powerful muscle of the human body. It is considered a part of the thigh muscle group. It extends thigh at the hip, and assists in laterally rotating the thigh.
Consider your glutes and hip flexors as part of a marriage – there needs to a nice even balance between both parties in order for the relationship to function properly. If one side is more dominant than the other, you’re very likely to have all sorts of problems! Strains, pulls, lower back pain and many other issues are associated with these major muscle groups of our body.
During normal walking, hip extension is primarily a function of hamstrings rather than gluteus maximus. When leg is fixed as in standing the gluteus maximus is an extensor of the pelvis on the thigh. When gluteus maximus is weak, the body lurches backward at heel-strike on weakened side to interrupt forward motion of the body.
This ‘marriage’ of muscles is involved in a number of movements about the hip that can greatly affect your posture and daily tasks such as sitting, walking, running and ultimately many areas down (or up) the chain.
So what is the plan?
The key is to not only listen to your own body… if you have a postural check and soft tissue assessment with a professional who can quickly see where the tight and weak areas are, then a plan of action should be considered if you want the body to work harmoniously? Areas of weakness will always have a corresponding tight/shortened area. The most likely scenario is WEAK glutes and TIGHT/SHORT hip flexors but it is good to get advice from your physio/personal trainer/sports therapy professional as there may be other pre-disposing considerations (occupation or inherited posture) and it may be unilateral rather than bilateral i.e. one side affected more than the other.
- Strengthen the glutes
- Lengthen/stretch the hip flexors
- Maintain all other synergists ..muscles associated with the gluteals which help control and stabilise
Speak to your personal trainer for a tailor-made exercise programme which will take into account your personal situation…availability to train and other sporting demands. This will be with an aim to improve core-strength. Some exercises to consider here would be glute bridges and squats.
In conjunction with this…
Begin a programme of stretching exercises and soft-tissue sports & remedial massage to lengthen and improve the quality of the soft tissue in/around the tight areas so they meet the new demands of the strengthened areas.
If you do one without the other..the balance will not be maintained and a wide variety of musculoskeletal problems can ensue!