Throughout my experience in the fitness field I have noticed that I see a lot of issues and discomfort in the hamstrings and lower back, but rarely encounter any sort of injury or discomfort in the Glutes. This is simply because the Glutes are not getting used enough, and the hamstrings and lower back are getting used much much more. The Gluteals are seperated into 3 main muscles:
- Gluteus Maximus: which is the largest of the three and extends the hip
- Gluteus Medius: which is abducts and internally rotates the hip
- Gluteus Minimus: which is the smallest of the three and also abducts and internally rotates the hip
In this post I intend to highlight the importance of a group of muscles that I feel are often overlooked, starting with GLUTEUS MAXIMUS!
The fact of the matter is that many people are tight in the hamstrings, lower back and hip flexors. This often occurs from being seated in a flexed forward position all day long. This is directly related to a lack of strength and motor control in the gluteal muscles. When the hip flexors (opposing muscle to the gluteus maximus) are overactive, the GLUTEUS MAXIMUS becomes weak and inhibited.
Therefore, when our “butt” muscles are not up to the task of extending the hip, the hamstrings and erector spinae muscles are forced to work overtime to compensate. This is known as synergistic dominance. Meaning that the muscles that are supposed to be assisting the prime mover are actually taking over and doing all the work for the prime mover which is the GLUTEUS MAXIMUS. This unfortunate cycle often results in injury or at the very least some pain and discomfort in the lower back.
Here are a few exercises that will help you gain strength and motor control in your GLUTEUS MAXIMUS.
Start with a simple HIP EXTENSION on a mat or stability ball as shown above. Make sure that you stabilize your core and keep pelvis pressed into mat/ ball so that the lower back does not arch and hip does not lift off the mat/ball. Squeeze and Hold. Alternate leg.
Once you have the simple hip extension down, try doing a GLUTE BRIDGE demonstrated above. Start lying on your back with your feet hip width apart, flat on the floor toes right up against a wall, legs bent at 90 degrees. Initiate the movement by squeezing the butt, driving through the heels, and lifting the hips off the floor. Only go as high as your glutes are willing to take you. If you try to force yourself higher, you’ll only be taking the stress of your glutes and shifting the load to your lower back. Lower down slowly to hover over the mat and repeat.
So now that you have some simple exercises to activate your GLUTEUS MAXIMUS, I hope that you or someone you know will find this post helpful! Stay tuned for Part 2: GLUEUS MEDIUS/MINIMUS which will be a more in-depth look at how to stabilize the hip joint!
-Carah (YWCA Hamilton Certified Personal Trainer/ Group Fitness Instructor)