27 Oct 2016
Is Your Butt Working For You?
Where were you the last time you read a headline like, “The best butt exercises!”, or “How to get that bootylicious butt like so-and-so celebrity?” Whether we embrace them or despise them, we are bombarded with these articles. There is no doubt exercise is important for your health. But, believe it or not, if you are going to exercise any part of your body, your glutes are one of the most essential muscles in the body needed for everyday living from walking to sitting and getting up.
The issue we face is there is such an abundance of information out there. How can we know what are truly the best, safest, and most effective exercises? If you choose the right exercise, how can you be sure you are performing them correctly and that the right muscles are working?
Below, I am going to help you filter through the fluff out there and give you cues and tips to get you on your way to a fit and well functioning derriere!
There is such a variety of exercises ranging from simple to complex, so my first tip is the KISS method (which stands for ‘keep it simple stupid’). Simple doesn’t necessarily mean that the exercises will be easy. In fact, simple exercises can be progressed in level of difficultly, or varied to change the plane of movement. Simple exercises can be considered functional and part of our everyday movement pattern, as they mimic life. So here are the big three functional daily life movement/exercises that work the glutes; squats, lunges, and bending (often in the gym many of our bending movements will be referred to as a ‘deadlift’ position, bending at the hips, as in picking something up from the floor.)
When performing these exercises correctly, you will be doing a great service to your whole body starting with your butt. Unfortunately, too many of us perform these most basic movements poorly, where overactive muscles such as our quads, hamstrings, and hip flexors are working too hard and your weak under-active glutes become lazy. It is also interesting to note that whether you are an avid exerciser in the gym five days-per-week, a weekend warrior, or just starting to consider exercising again, it’s likely your glutes are suffering from a type of muscular amnesia due to sedentary lifestyle, injuries, or muscle imbalances in the body.
Want to know if your butt is doing its fair share? While it can be helpful to have someone coaching you on a exercise, becoming aware of what you’re feeling, when and where, will give you greater internal feedback to performing exercises correctly, more so than any external feedback.
The next time you perform a squat exercise, ask yourself these questions; A) Where am I feeling it? B) If I had to do this one-hundred times what part (muscles) of my body would get tired first? If legs, quads, hamstrings, lower back or knees are your first answers, chances are good that your glutes need a wake up call!
Waking up your glutes
1. Tweak your starting and ending positions
Sticking with our squat example, here are some tips to get your butt moving. Try one or a few together.
- Widen your stance
- Point your toes slightly outward.
- Place a bench or swiss ball behind you to tap your butt with on each squat.
- Perform deeper squats (dropping your hips below your knees)
- Practicing sitting in a resting, or full squat (bringing your hip all the way down towards the floor) for varying intervals of time.
2. Create unstable environments
When you perform an exercise with both legs on the floor, this is considered a stable environment. If you perform an exercise on just one leg, this creates an unstable environment. Single leg exercises that require you to balance are a great way to engage your glutes, and you will feel them working. Variations of balance movements, squats, lunges and and bending are plentiful and can be progressed and modified to suit your fitness level.
Try these single leg exercises;
A) Beginner Exercise: Single Leg Balance Reach
B) Progressed Exercise: Single Leg Squat
3. Activation exercises
Just as you may warm up and stretch before you get started with your workout, a good protocol before squats lunges and bending is to perform some smaller isolated glute activation exercises to warm up and wake up the muscles for the more challenging work ahead.
Try these favorites of mine for glute activation
A) Glute Bridges (on the floor, or using a swiss ball)
B) Fire Hydrants
C) Donkey kicks
Okay, so the best thing about all these butt exercises is that you can do them anywhere with minimal to no equipment require. Don’t worry about the hundreds of different exercises and variations that claim to sculpt and shape the butt you want. Stick to the big three, become aware and learn to trust the internal feedback from your body, and be sure to wake up your glutes, especially if you spend hours a day sitting on it!
Questions? Need examples? Drop me a line below!
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