Here is a guest article from Sue Heintze on how ladies can achieve the glutes that they dream of.
If you don’t have a tight, trim tush, you may not even be aware that it may actually be because you are/have been using the WRONG muscles when you exercise. If you don’t activate and engage the right muscles, you’ll NEVER have a beautiful butt.
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 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.
Consider your glutes and hip flexors as part of a marriage – there needs to be 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, tears, lower back pain and many other issues are associated with these major muscle groups of our body.
The gluteal muscles compromise the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus and the hip flexors (in which we will consider the most dominant hip flexor, the Iliopsoas, but keep in mind there are more less-dominant muscles also involved) consists of the psoas major, psoas minor and the iliacus.
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. Hip flexion, extension, internal rotation, external rotation, adduction, abduction, transverse adduction and transverse abduction are among the major roles of the glutes and hip flexor muscle groups. In real layman’s terms, they are responsible for a lot of stuff!
There are two main problems that we experience with our glutes.
Some of us are not able to engage our glutes at all – not even for everyday activities, like standing or walking and not for exercising such as running or squatting.
Others are able to engage their glutes but they are very weak because they are dominated by other muscles such as the quadriceps (typically). Even if these people aim to train their glutes when they hit the gym, they often end up missing the mark and allowing the stronger, more dominant leg muscles to take over. This leaves them with a great imbalance that just keeps increasing, and causing a multitude of problems as time goes on.
If you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk and have a rather sedentary job, not only is it good for your eyes to break from that computer screen (if you work at one) but it will also be good for your butt if you get up at regular intervals and take a quick stroll and perform some hip flexor stretches.
Not only will learning to engage your glutes help to build a nice toned, firm butt, it can help to improve lower back and knee pain.
So, when it comes to training, it’s really important that we ‘switch the appropriate muscles on’ and activate our glutes prior to a lower body training session. A great way to do this is to incorporate some activation exercises into a ‘dynamic’ warm up. Rather than jump on the treadmill to warm up, a dynamic warm up involves a series of exercises to warm up and prepare the appropriate muscles and joints for training.
This type of warm up will help to mobilize, stretch and strengthen the muscles thereby aiding in rehabilitating any current imbalances or injuries and avoiding future ones.