Our glutes aren’t just there for us to sit on. Nor are they there for someone else to grab or admire. Our glutes help us to do just about everything. They help us walk, go up and down stairs, sit, stand and of course they help us run!
If our legs are moving, our glutes should be working. Our glutei are central to our functioning, so when they’re not doing their job, there can be major problems.
Unfortunately most of us sit on them all day while at work, school, on the couch, or in the car, leaving them in an elongated and weak stretched position. The professional term for this is called ‘inhibition’.
- The action of inhibiting, restricting, or hindering a process.
- The slowing or prevention of a process, reaction, or function by a particular substance.
- Synonyms: hindrance, hampering, obstruction, impediment, suppression, restriction, restrain, constraint, prevention
The Sleeping Giant
Inhibited glutei are like a giant taking a nap. When the giant is sleeping, he has no power. He has no control over any situation and can easily become overpowered. When the giant is sleeping, he can be taken advantage of. He becomes weak. When our glutei are napping all the time, our hips become weak, which if often the root cause of almost any problem associated with our lower body or back and can even cause some issues with our upper body.
The glutei are the group of three muscles that make up the buttocks: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. These muscles around the hip are essential for total body functional movements, athletic performance, and injury prevention!
Sometimes it’s easier to better understand a muscles function by looking at its dysfunction. A good way to describe the dysfunction of the glutes is by imagining firing off a massive cannon from a little boat in rough seas without an anchor. How accurate can that cannon be without a steady base to sit on? The cannon is inhibited by its platform forcing everything to be inefficient. There is little chance of it hitting its target when the boat is rocking around on the waves.
The glutes are like that anchor. They tie the boat down, they create stability and allow accuracy and they control of the movements of the hip joint, knee joints and ankle/foot joints.
The majority of individuals have very tight hip flexors that will not allow the glutes to work properly. If you don’t have enough hip flexor flexibility, then you will never be able to open up the hips enough to activate the glutes. Since there are two known problems; tight/shortened hip flexors and inhibited glutes, there are two solutions. Regardless if it’s the glutes that are weak because the hips are tight, or the hips are tight because the glutes are weak, the solution is still the same – restore the hip flexors back to their original length and allow the glutes to respond properly through neuromuscular activation.
Lengthening our hips and activating our glutes is vital to our training and our health because of the altered mechanics many of us experience due to every day life. Deadlifts, lunges and squats are great exercises, but we won’t get the full benefit out of these exercises if our hips aren’t healthy and our glutes aren’t firing properly.
No ifs, ands, or butts (literally).
Many of us take our glutes for granted but having weak and/or inhibited glutes can cause more problems than we realize. Weak glutes can lead to a myriad of health issues; most commonly found being muscle imbalances.
Here are a few surprising health problems than can be linked directly to weak glutes:
- Poor posture. Over time, weak glutes can cause the hips to tilt slightly forward (a.k.a. anterior pelvic tilt). If not corrected, this anterior pelvic tilt can lead to upper and lower body injuries.
- Back pain. Many people mistakenly believe that lower back pain is caused by a problem with their lower back. They are linked but weak glutes leads to lower back issues. Our lower back depends on our hip flexors, glutes and hamstrings to remain balanced and strong. For example: If your glutes are not strong enough to fully engage when you bend forward, your spine must round forward excessively to lower your arms to the ground.
- Knee pain. Weak glutes can cause increased pressure on the cartilage around your knee. This is due to a higher amount of internal rotation on the femur.
- Hamstring strains. If the hamstrings become dominant during hip extension, it increases the risk of hamstring strains.
- Other lower body injuries. A study in the Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy found that the muscle imbalances caused by gluteal muscle weakness have been associated with several lower extremity injuries including patella femoral pain syndrome (Runner’s Knee), iliotibial band friction syndrome (IT Band Syndrome), anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains, and chronic ankle instability.
- Upper body issues. In addition to issues in the lower body, weak glutes can affect the upper body as well. When the hips are tilted forward or imbalanced, your postural muscles must work harder to keep the body aligned and upright. This unwanted mechanical stress can increase the risk of tension headaches as well as irritability in the muscles surrounding the upper back, shoulders and neck.
- Diminished performance. Strong glutes are essential for athletic performance. Explosive movements seen in exercises such as running require strong gluteal muscles.
Few people would associate weak glute muscles with the ailments listed above and as a result, they may seek treatment for the injury itself, not realizing the actual source of the injury is weak glutes! As a result, the glutes aren’t strengthened and they will see the injury and pain return. Because the quads can often overpower the glutes, we want to make sure our glutes are getting the workout they deserve. Especially as an athlete.
Our Posterior Powerhouse
We’ve talked about how weak glutes and hips can lead to a lot of problems but how can strong hips and powerful, active (awake) glutes help us? This may be surprising but our glutei are capable of generating an impressive amount of power. Strengthening our gluteal muscles can lead to improved speed, acceleration and explosive power.
It’s simple, athletes with strong, active glutes and hips run longer and faster than those with weak glutes!
The greater need for fast movements require greater hip extension potential. This means that for athletes like us to perform with quickness and agility, we have a greater need to produce maximal power and speed. Having the muscular strength of the primary hip extensors (i.e., the gluteus maximus) is absolutely necessary. The glutes provide that HUGE amount of power needed for the quick, explosive movements we need to run faster when we’re tired, to sprint at the end of a race, to climb tough hills and to support us as we run downhill or on slippery, uneven terrain.
If our glutes are weak, our athletic performance is going to suffer. That is a FACT.
In addition to strengthening our glutes and lengthening our hips, in order to see the results we want (weight-loss, stronger and faster running workouts, less aches and pains) we must also lose unwanted fat. Losing fat as opposed to “losing weight” is the ideal scenario because it means we are not losing muscle. It takes consistency and commitment to start seeing results and that’s in ALL areas of our training. Cardio (running), strength and yes…eating. It takes all of these working together to start being pleased with our results.
Results don’t just happen and no one can expect to get stronger, faster and leaner overnight. Just like you can’t expect to lose 50 pounds of excess fat in one day. And we definitely can’t expect to develop the strength, speed and lean physique we want if we don’t follow the plan and are constantly finding ourself sitting on the couch watching TV.
However, the harder you work, the more calories you’ll burn, the leaner you’ll get and the stronger you’ll get. Put it together and you will get faster too!
It’s Christmas time and everyone is super busy with so much on our plate. But that doesn’t mean we can’t find time to get in our workouts! We’re going back to our calendar set up for December and I know some of you are very excited about it. You’ll see lots of familiar exercise routines and some new ones but you have a schedule of when to do them. Hopefully this will make life a little easier (less planning! 🙂 )
December 2018 Challenge: Our Posterior Powerhouse
Here is how the month is set up:
- Mondays – Core + Hamstrings & Calves
- Tuesday – Hips & Glutes
- Wednesday – Core & Arms
- Thursday – Hips & Glutes
- Friday – Core & Arms
- Saturday – Sabre Warm up + Long Runs + Plank & Wall Sit + Stretch & Roll! (can be switched out with Sunday)
- Sunday – Arms plus Active Recovery and Yoga for Runners (bringing it back!) plus bonus for getting in your 3rd glutei workout of the week!
You probably guessed that in December we are focusing on building strength, flexibility, stability and power in our posterior powerhouse…our glutes and hips! We will also be working our core, arms and lower legs but this month our focus is on waking up that sleeping giant and putting our powerhouse to work!
Our December 2018 Challenge Calendar and a printable “Members Instructions” sheet with links to videos to follow along with is available in our STTC private FB group files. PDF copes of each of the individual workouts can also be found in our group files. Links are not posted here to keep these workouts private for our STTC members. If you are not in our #CoreCrew but want to be, check out our STTC info page for details!
It’s time to get out of our comfort zone once again, wake up the sleeping giant inside us all and put our posterior powerhouse to work! Let’s do this Crew!