Get Your Glutes Functioning Again
Good glutes functioning is important for a lot of your daily activities such as walking, getting up from a chair, climbing stairs, running etc. Muscle imbalances happen if your glutes do not function well. Often your hip flexors, hamstrings and back muscles will get tight if they are overloaded. Glutes not functioning well is the biggest cause of low back pain. Other joints in your body such as your knees, ankles get overloaded with poor functioning glutes. To overcome the dysfunction sometimes it’s as simple as using simple strengthening exercises. Sometimes the issue is the activation of the glutes where the muscle is dormant and we lose control over the activation of that muscle. If that is the case, then the following steps can help achieve control back over the muscle to get proper function back.
1. STRETCH THEM
To get the glutes functioning again, you will need to stretch them before doing any strengthening. A tight muscle will not work well. Muscles have a length tension relationship, they need to be an optimal length for them to generate maximum force more efficiently. So it is important to have a stretching routine with any muscle strengthening work.
You may also need to stretch out the hip flexors which is the muscle at the front of the hip. Tight hip flexors will reduce the function of the glutes so make sure you stretch them out also. There are several methods of stretching out the glutes depending on where most of the tightness is:
2. ACTIVATE THEM
To get your glutes functioning again, often the muscle activation needs to be made stronger first before strengthening. Muscle activation means your ability to turn a particular muscle ‘on’ when you want to. Often this is the main problem where the individual does not even know how to turn their glutes on. It is almost like being paralysed, you want to lift your arm up but you cannot. Practicing activation of your glutes by isolating it first is very important. This will build the neural pathways from your brain to the muscle. This is a key step to get your glutes functioning as more practice will make this automated. A great exercise for isolating the glute muscles is by doing clams.
Clams – Lie on your side. Make sure your hips are evenly stacked on top of each other. Have a little gap underneath your bottom waist. Join the heels together and lift just the top knee up. It is important to not let your hips roll back. If you have glut dysfunction than often the hip flexors, quadriceps and the hamstrings will kick in to do the movement. If that is the case, then isolate the glutes further by just practicing isometric glute contraction by squeezing your heels together and not actually moving.
Lying down prone on your front is another position to practice isolating and activating your gluts before any strengthening.
In lying down face front position – Lie on your front. Bend your knee up. First practice turning the muscle on without any movement so it is an isometric contraction. Then use the glutes to lift the knee just off the floor. Take care to not allow other muscles such as your hamstrings to take over, quadratus lumborum to take over.
3. STRENGTHEN THEM
Strengthen the glutes after it is activating well to enhance the glutes function. Glutes can be strengthened in various ways. If you glute muscle dysfunction, then I recommend strengthening them in a progressive manner.
- Loaded clams – Tie a theraband around the knees. Perform the clams as above against the resistance of the band. You can make it harder by progressing to a higher strength more tougher theraband or doubling up the band.
- Side lie leg press with band – Lying on your side as per clam position set up. Wrap the band around the foot. Hold the band with both hands. Press the foot away against the resistance of the band.
- Standing lunges – Standing upright, place one foot a step in front of the other in a lunge position. Activate the gluts first, use them to initiate the forward lunge movement. Start by doing a small lunge. To progress, increase the length of the step forward and lunge deeper. Make sure your hips are maintained in a posterior tilt i.e. tucked under
- Squats – Standing upright. Tuck the hips under to prevent the hip flexors kicking in. Initiate and engage the glutes. Use them to perform the squat. Start by doing a small controlled squat. Progress by maintaining neutral hip tilt and going deeper into the squat.
- Step ups – Engage the glutes whilst stepping up as well as stepping down. Increase the size of the step to make it harder.
- Progress further to add more dynamic movements such as burpees, hi jumps, dynamic lunges, running uphill, stepper etc.
- Make sure your glutes function in your everyday activities such as getting up from a chair, going up stairs, walking etc.
Once you have your glutes functioning again, it is important to maintain their function. Any period of inactivity or disuse will quickly decondition them. So get moving and keep moving. Find a way of exercising that you enjoy so it becomes a part of your lifestyle.
Contact us if you need more help and advise.