Do you lift in the gym? Here’s how you should be using your glutes 

Author: Emily Taylor
Date: 18/07/2019
Category: Grow

Last month, we shared our blog “5 Best Exercises for Glutes”, where we delved into the anatomy of the glutes, the importance of strengthening them and some of the best exercises you can include in your training program to target them. In this blog, we’re back onto the topic of glutes, this time to explain what you need to be aware of when it comes to glutes and your movement patterns.

 

If you’re regularly working out in the gym, then there are a few things to look out for that might indicate some weakness in the glutes that you should address. Three of the most common are:

    1. Lateral hip shift during a squat. If you notice yourself shifting slightly to one side in your squat, you must reduce the load and practice the movement with more control and focus. There are a number of different causes for hip shifts, from tight hips, imbalanced glutes, too heavy a weight and an incorrect movement pattern learnt. To help you spot and manage your lateral shift, you can use a mirror, a friend, a PT or film yourself to check for this. 
    2. Hip drop in a lunge. This is most commonly down to a weakness in the glute medius. To address this, it’s important to activate (wake up) this muscle before lunging – a good way to do this is via quadruped side kickbacks or clams. During the movement, focus on keeping your hips parallel to one another by engaging your lower abs and squeezing the glutes 
    3. Failure to come to full hip extension. A key point for all lifts from the hips (squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts) is to come fully back to neutral at the end of each repetition. If there is still a hinge or bend at your hips, then you need to squeeze your glutes more at the top of the movements

 

 Key things to remember when training your glutes

    1. Activate first. Before doing exercises that target the glutes, you need to wake these muscles up. Unfortunately, sitting down for a lot of the day means that your glute muscles often go into hibernation mode, so they do not fire up correctly. It’s therefore very important that you go through a glute activation warm up before you start lifting, such as banded side steps, quadruped kickbacks and glute bridges 
    2. Strengthen. Nail your technique first, then gradually start increasing the amount of weight you’re using for squats, deadlifts, hip thrusts, lunges and variations of these movements. Your trainer will help you to make progress at a pace that is appropriate for you
    3. Lengthen and stretch. Try some stretches that target the glutes to reduce tightness, for example pigeon pose, hip openers and knee hugs. You can also try foam rolling and using a lacrosse ball 

 

 

Why training your glutes can help with back pain

Strengthening your glutes is hugely important for a whole host of reasons – from athletic performance, posture, aesthetics, running ability and reduced risk of injury. With an estimated third of the adult UK population suffering from lower back pain every year, arguably the most important reason to ensure your glutes are the strongest is key to prevent back pain.

 

It’s an unfortunate fact that our lives are becoming increasingly sedentary, with many of us spending the vast majority of our day sitting in front of a computer screen. This inactivity causes our glutes to stop working properly, which in turn forces other muscles to take over and do the work. When we consider the fact that our glutes are naturally the strongest muscles of the body, we can begin to understand why this can cause problems. Other, smaller muscles are recruited to pick up the slack and do the work that the glutes should be doing. 

 

As the largest muscle in the body, the gluteus maximus can be thought of as our powerhouse, while the smaller glute medius and minimus have more of a stabilisation role. If these muscles aren’t firing correctly, then the pelvis will lack stability, causing excessive movement in the sacrum, the base of your spine, in turn causing lower back pain. Well-developed glutes stabilise the pelvis and bear the brunt of your daily movement, taking the pressure off your back and alleviating lower back pain. 

 

Hypermobile hips? Here’s why you need strong glutes

 

Having super flexible hips due to hypermobility can be seen as a good thing, but it can also prove problematic if you don’t know how to fully control your range of movement. Establishing strength throughout your range of movement and learning how to isolate your muscles at one joint, while keeping the rest of your body still, must be a priority in your training if you want to build strong and stable hips. Your gluteus maximus, medius and minimus need to work alongside other smaller supporting muscles to allow hip rotation, flexion and extension and to stabilise your femur in your hip socket. The condition of your glutes can have a massive impact on your posture, as well as help to prevent or alleviate back, hip and pelvic pain. 

 

Is squatting risky for my back and knees? 

If performed correctly, absolutely not. If your squat form is not solid, do not load it. Get the technique nailed first, and only then can you start increasing the weights lifted. Some key points to keep in mind when doing squats:

 

  1. Squatting down too fast is a no-no. This is because it doubles the amount of shearing and compressive forces placed on your knees. Keep your reps at a controlled pace to avoid this. For example, 2 seconds down, 2 seconds up
  2. Squat depth matters, a lot. Squat depth will vary from person to person, body to body. What can be said is, aim for:
  1. Pain free. If something hurts, do not push through the pain
  2. Improve your ankle mobility and strength
  3. Aim for full depth: i.e. when the hip crease passes below parallel, and you can still keep a straight back. This does not compromise knee stability, and can enhance stability if performed correctly
  1. Keep a neutral spine. Any risks of spinal injury can be avoided by simply minimizing the amount of shearing force placed on the spine. This means keeping a neutral spine (neither arched or rounded) and increasing intra abdominal pressure by holding your breath while squatting and gazing straight ahead instead of down

Any more questions on glute strength or nailing your form in exercises to strengthen them? Let your trainer know. If you don’t already train at Grow, why not book in for a FREE 60-minute consultation with a Grow trainer today? Simply email hello@growfitness.co.uk to book in. Look forward to seeing you soon!

 

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