I’m sure at one time or another you have all heard the term ‘Glute Activation’ thrown around. But really, what does that mean, and how does it apply training and athletic performance?
Just a brief background on two of those Gluteal muscles:
Gluteus Maximus, is a prime mover during hip extension (think jumping, sprinting, bounding), and plays an important role in providing stability to the lumbo-pelvic region.
Gluteus Medius, anatomically acts as an abductor of the femur but in a more functional manner provides stability to the hip and knee during single leg stance, and can play a role in lateral movement, whilst also stabilising the lumbo-pelvic region.
So what does this jargon mean?
It means that strong glutes have the potential to improve sport performance by making us faster, jump higher, and change direction quicker.
Just steering away from the sport performance side of things a little, it also means that they can provide stability to the hip, reducing load through the lumbar spine, which has the potential to improve or reduce the risk of developing lower back pain.
Now this is all well and good, but we have a bit of an issue.
Glute Amnesia (You can thank the great Mike Boyle for the term).
What is glute amnesia? Well it’s a term coined to describe the inhibited and atrophied glutes that 90% (approximate estimation...) of the population exhibit. Their Gluteal muscles have literally forgotten how to work! This is most likely a result of the increases in sedentary behaviour (sitting) that our modern lifestyle promotes. Sitting leaves the glutes in a lengthened, stretched out position. Spending a lot of time in this position results in them receiving a reduced neural stimulus, which leads to neural inhibition (they 'forget' how to work!)
And as an additional side effect of our sedentary behavior, is that not only have they forgotten how to work - they don't get the opportunity to work, which leads to both weakness and muscular atrophy!
This can lead to reduced athletic performance, greater risk of soft tissue injury through the development of compensation patterns, and low back pain.
So what can we do about it? We need to learn to activate and use those glutes!
How do we fire up the Glutes?
The introduction of glute activation exercises is a good start. A simple circuit of the following 3 exercise in your warm ups can go a long way to improving glute activation. This means they will be working more effectively during your workout, improving their strength development and potential for muscular hypertrophy.
Prone hip extension
Now the key here is to really focus on ‘feeling’ glute max produce the movement, while limiting the load on the hamstrings. If you feel the hamstrings working more than the glutes, give it a go with the knee bent to 90 degrees which will take the hamstring out of the equation.
Similar again, we really want the glutes to drive this movement, with no real feeling in the hamstrings. This can be done by squeezing your butt as hard as you can – imagine your cracking a walnut!
To make sure the hamstrings are staying quiet, you can physically touch the muscle belly of the hamstring during the movement. If it feels soft it means glutes are the main drivers of the movement.
This is a great way to fire up gluteus medius. A key is to make sure is that you are feeling it in the glutes. If you feel fatigue in front of the hip, its most likely TFL driving the movement. This can be changed by stepping laterally and backwards slightly, to get a bit more hip extension involved in the movement. You want to feel the burn just posterior of the hip joint.
So a potential Glute Activation Circuit may look something like this
Exercise 1A: Prone Hip Extension x12/side
Exercise 1B: Glute Bridge x12
Exercise 1C: X-Band Walk x12/side
Repeat 3 times.
Hope this has provided a bit of info on the importance of the glutes, and a good way to warm them up!
If you are unsure where to start, contact me below!