There’s an epidemic going around these days, an epidemic of weak glutes, shovel butts and sneeze pee.
Glutes that are strong and participating in our daily movements help to stabilize our sacrum, that triangle shaped bone that sits at the bottom of our spine between the left and right halves of our pelvis.
This is great news for our SI joints.
It's also great news for our pelvic floor muscles and the suspensory ligaments that help support our pelvic floor organs and keep them where they belong.
A stable sacrum, supported by our glutes, provides is a stable anchor for those structures to attach to.
This is really important for correcting and preventing sneeze pee.
In short, we need strong glutes but we're often missing out on the daily movements that give us strong glutes.
One glute boosting movement that most of us are missing in our daily lives is squatting.
We might squat on occasion at the gym but otherwise most of us stopped squatting around the age of 5 or 6.
Another glute boosting movement most of us are deficient in is walking.
Not only are we lacking the quantity of walking our body needs to function well, but the quality of our walking often leaves a lot to be desired.
For most of us, walking is often a pretty passive activity that relies on momentum and gravity rather than active participation from a wide variety of muscles, including our glutes.
Keep in mind, the shape of our glutes reflect how we've moved (or not) up to this point.
Watch your habits
Along with a deficiency of squatting and walking in our daily lives, there are also a few habits that put our glutes on the endangered species list.
The most common ones?
- thrusting our pelvis forward when we stand
- tucking our pelvis under
- clenching our glutes all. of. the. time.
Some of us are lucky enough to hit the jackpot of all three.
And no, having a glute clenched day in and day out, does not improve their strength or function. It just results in chronically tense glutes, which actually decreases their strength over time.
If we're thrusting or tucking our pelvis or holding our glutes in a permaclench, we're missing out on the benefits our glutes have to offer.
The glaring red flag that we're missing out? Shovel butt aka our missing ass.
Change your movement, change your glutes
Ideally, strong glutes and glute mass, are the byproduct of lots of movement that happens throughout our day, in regular doses. Movement like large quantities of non-treadmill walking and squatting.
It's not just about the glute strength and glute mass in isolation, it's also about doing the movements that's create glute strength and glute mass.
Ideally we're moving in a wide variety of ways and the result is a strong, supple body that is able to move in a wide variety of ways.
The reality? Most of us need a little (or a lot of) help to get there.
4 exercises to start with
1. Hip Flexors
Let's start with addressing hip flexor tension.
Your hip flexor muscles are muscles that cross the front of your hip joint. When you sit (and sit and sit and sit), they adjust to being in a flexed position and have a hard time lengthening out of that position into extension.
Your glutes help move your leg behind you, into extension, an important movement when walking over flat ground.
The less hip extension you have, the less glute action you get when you walk.
Decrease your sitting time, vary how you sit and add this stretch into your repertoire to improve your hip extension and get more glute benefits when you walk.
2. Quad Hinge
Yes, I know this post is about glutes but this exercise is so good and, for those of us with tight quads, so deliciously hard.
During this exercise, you're asking your quads to lengthen while being active, also know as an eccentric stretch.
I included this exercise because it also addresses tight hip flexors, a common road block to developing glute strength.
One of your quad muscles, the rectus femoris, is also a hip flexor since it crosses the hip joint as well as the knee joint. Use a folded towel or blanket under your knees for a bit of extra cushion if needed.
3. Pelvic Press
Glutes and hamstrings are doing the bulk of the work in this exercise. Alongside this, the hip flexors are getting a nice opportunity to lengthen as the pelvis comes off the floor.
This is a great exercise to help you isolate the movement of your pelvis and spine practice moving them in a precise and controlled manner.
Learning to move the part of your body you're intending to move is a valuable skill.
All too often movement of the pelvis gets glommed together with movement of the ribs. This exercise can help untangle that movement habit.
4. Strap Squat
This is my favorite exercise for improving my squat.
Most of us don't have the glute strength or mass to keep the shins vertical.
We also tend to have a lot of lower leg tension that knocks us back onto our butt when we back our pelvis up to get vertical shins.
Using the strap is a great way to meet your body where it is and still get practice keeping your shins vertical. This helps you improve your glute strength, develop more glute mass and work on easing lower leg tension.
So there you have 4 exercises you can begin to work with that will help you address hip flexor tension as well as develop glute strength.
Remember, these exercises work hand in hand with increasing your movement throughout your day. The ultimate goal is to move in ways that continue to support the strength and mobility necessary to good quality movement.
These exercises can be valuable "movement supplements" that help you bridge the strength and mobility gaps that interfere with your ability to move well.