Have you ever wondered why you might have back pain, hip pain, shoulder pain that is reoccurring?
Do you have a job, hobby, sport that causes you to sit excessively or have repetitive movements?
Are you walking with a sway?
Are you carrying your wallet in your back hip pocket - that over time just might be causing an imbalance and resulting in imbalanced muscles surrounding the hip/pelvis area.
Do you have flat feet that may be causing imbalances in the knees thus imbalances surrounding the hips?
It could be that your glutes have become inactive which can cause a lot of problems.
Breakdowns in the soft tissue causing muscle imbalances therefore compensations, injuries, arthritis can occur due to joints that have become misaligned causing other muscle groups to become misaligned, etc, etc.
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the human body. It is large and powerful because it has the job of keeping the trunk of the body in an erect posture.
So,in the end, the glutes play a very important role in keeping many muscle groups from trunk up aligned, hence why it is so crucial to pay attention to our posture, how much we’re moving, how much we’re not moving, how our bodies are feeling…I call that body awareness.
Are they feeling tight? Are they feeling stiff? If so, we need to get moving…It doesn’t take much time over the course of our day, to get up and do some stretches, to walk a bit…
My suggestion is this…when you have low back pain, buttock pain, hip pain, or leg pain, your trouble might be caused by trigger points in the gluteus medius, and minimus muscles. ... Other muscles in the region are usually involved as well, such as the gluteus maximus, piriformis, and the lumbar muscles that are next to the spine.
We really need to be paying attention to our bodies, and prevent any injuries and chronic conditions before it has a big impact on the quality of our lives and our pocket book in the end.
I’d like to introduce you to a few exercises that will help strengthen these super important muscles to make sure that they continue to work. If you’re already are in pain, these exercises can also help in reactivating these dysfunctioning muscles.
Please see the following exercises and there are many more, but these are a few of my favorites. Simple but impactful!
Exercises to Activate Your Glutes
Glute Bridge – The glute bridge is a versatile move that can be used for activation as well as developing great glute strength. It is a great move to strengthen your glutes and open up your hips. You can do it with just your own bodyweight or even add weight! A great variation of the glute bridge for activation is the mini band glute bridge shown below. Just make sure that as you do the glute bridge, you don’t hyperextend your low back to get your hips up higher. You want your glutes to really have to work to raise your hips up.
Fire Hydrant – The fire hydrant is a great way to wake up the gluteus medius, which is a critical muscle for maintaining balance and preventing knee and ankle injuries. Strengthening your gluteus medius will also improve your hip’s stability as well as help you run faster and change direction more quickly. To do the fire hydrant, place your hands underneath your shoulders and your knees underneath your hips. Flex your feet and keep both your feet flexed even as you raise one leg.
Donkey Kick – This move will wake up your entire core, activating your glutes and warming up your abs and shoulders. To do the donkey kick, start on your hands and knees with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Flex your feet.
Then keeping the knee bent close to 90 and the foot flexed, kick one leg back and drive the heel up toward the ceiling. Don’t let the low back arch and make sure you draw your belly button in toward your spine. Make sure that as you lift you are squeezing the glute of the leg you are raising.
The foot should drive straight up to the ceiling and the knee shouldn’t flare out. Do not let your elbows bend to get the leg higher. Hold at the top and squeeze the glute then lower and repeat. Make sure you are driving straight back and that the knee of the raised leg is bent to 90 and isn’t flaring in or out.
There is no need to weight down this move if you are using it in your warm up, although you can if you really want to use it to develop strength. To get the most out of this activation move, hold at the top for 2-5 seconds. Do not rush through the reps.
Then raise one leg out to the side, keeping the knee bent to 90 degrees. Lift it as high as you can while keeping your arms straight. Try to not let the foot get higher than the knee or the knee get higher than the foot. Really squeeze the butt cheek as you lift.
Hold for a second or two at the top. Lower down and then repeat. Complete all reps on one side before switching.
Hip Circles – This move combines the donkey kick with the fire hydrant while also adding in a great ab activation movement. To prevent and even ease your low back pain, you need your glutes AND your abs to be active. This move activates both.
To do hip circles, setup on your hands and knees with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Flex your feet.
Then drive one heel back toward the ceiling, keeping the knee bent to 90 and the foot flexed (this is the donkey kick). Then without lowering to the ground, bring that same leg out to the side, keeping the knee bent to 90 and the foot flexed. It should look like the top of the fire hydrant move.
Then without setting the knee down, drive it forward into the elbow. Keep the foot flexed the entire time and your elbows straight. When you drive into the elbow, you should really feel your abs engage. Then lower the knee down and repeat.
Band Monster Walks and Side Shuffle – Mini bands are a great tool to activate your glutes from every angle. Two of my favorite moves are the Monster Walks and Side Shuffle since they hit everything. If you even just include these two moves in your warm up, you are good to go in terms of glute activation!
The key with both of these moves is to keep your feet apart and the band tight. To make it easier, put the band around your knees. To make it harder, put the band around your feet. Do not let your knees cave in as you walk or your glutes won’t be forced to work.
A Few More Exercises to Try
Posterior Plank – The posterior plank is a great glute activation move as well as a great stretch for your chest and hips. This is a tougher move because your legs are out straight. You can also regress this move by bending your knees and bringing your feet in closer to your butt.
To do the posterior plank, start seated on the ground with your legs out straight in front of you and your hands on the ground behind your butt. Your fingertips should be pointing toward your butt or out to the side.
Drive through your hands and heels and raise your hips up off the ground toward the ceiling, keeping your legs straight. Press your chest up and out as you raise your hips. Keep your legs straight as you bridge up and relax your head back. Your body should be in a nice straight line at the top.
Beginners may need to bend their legs a bit to hold the bridge at the top. Hold for a few seconds and then lower back down and repeat.
Clams – This is another move to isolate the gluteus medius. This move is commonly used by people rehabbing hip injuries and low back pain BUT it is also a great move to activate the glutes and PREVENT those problems!
You can do this move without a mini band, however, the mini band does provide resistance. You can also push down with your own hand if you don’t have a band.
Bird Dog – This is a great core stabilizer exercise. It wakes up everything from your shoulders to your knees.
The key with the bird dog is to move slowly. You can add a band connecting your hand to your heel if you want to add resistance.
You can also advance the bird dog by doing this from the push up position instead of from your hands and knees.
To do the basic bird dog, place your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Flex your feet.
Kick one leg out straight back as if kicking it into the wall behind you while you reach the other arm out straight toward the wall in front of your head (reaching opposite arm and opposite leg in opposite directions). Don’t worry about lifting your leg or arm up high.
Really try to drive your arm and leg toward opposite walls. Squeeze your glutes and keep your belly button pulled in toward your spine.
As you lower your arm and leg, bend them and bring them together under your body. Try to touch your knee to your elbow before extending back out.
Repeat all reps on one side before switching to the other side. All reps should be done in a slow and controlled manner. You should even hold for a second or two at the top of the move.
Keep Working Those Glutes!
So, that’s it folks! I’d suggest an exercise program such as this 2x/week in order to get that butt in gear! If you’ve got any questions, I’m always here for you! Don’t hesitate to contact me via my email at email@example.com.
Thanks, and would love to hear your comments!