For a lot of women they want a nice round tight booty. It’s a nice goal to have. Personally though, I prefer to make sure my body is functional. I want it to be doing it’s job well, and that includes my booty.
What is Our Booty Really?
I think I have said booty enough times, so now I am going to start referring to it as glutes. Your glutes are made up of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.
Your Glutes are responsible for hip extension (i.e. pulling your upper leg back behind you). When dong their job well, they make sure your hips and pelvis are in the ideal neutral position.
Why Should you Care about it’s Function Rather Than Size & Shape?
These days, we spend a large amount of time sitting on our Glutes. As our hips flex into the seated position, our Glutes lengthen. Conversely our hip flexor muscles (front of the hip) also shorten. The longer and more often we are sitting, the longer and weaker our glutes get and the shorter and tight our hip flexors get. When this happens the major hip controlling muscles are no longer working well together, to keep our pelvis in the neutral position. We now have an imbalance, where one set of muscles has a greater effect than the other. Due to where these muscles attach, when this imbalance develops, we end up with the top of our pelvis tilted forward, which increases the lumbar (lower back) curve.
Lower Back Pain
The longer your pelvis is in the forward tilt position, the shorter and tighter your lower back muscles will become. They have to shorten to accomodate the increase lumbar curve. This can result in a lower back pain due to the tight muscles, but also because it places extra stress on that part of the back, especially when carrying heavy loads. The load distribution through the body is out of wack. The spine is no longer in the neutral position. The back muscles are doing more work to protect the spine and accomodate the load. Injury to the spine, especially the discs, are a als a higher risk.
Lower Back Injury
Because the lower back muscle are shorter and tighter, bending over and especially bending when carrying a load, is more likely to cause an injury and strain.
What You Can Do to Help Your Glutes to do Their Job
- Take more breaks from sitting. If you have a desk job, set a timer to get up and stretch or walk, every 20 mins or so.
- If you have the option try a standing desk. Or better yet a desk that can easily convert from standing to sitting.
- Try some hip flexor stretches each night, especially if you have been sitting for a large part of the day.
- Be conscious of when your hip flexors are active. You don’t need your hip flexors to be actively engaged when seated or in the squat position. So watch for them and consciously relax them.
- Strengthen your glutes with these exercises:
Key Points: At the top of the squat give an extra squeeze of the glutes to get hips to FULL extension. Think about your hip flexors and consciously relax then on the way down and way up – they will kick in at the top.
- Banded monster walks (resistance band around knees required)
Key Points: stay low the WHOLE time. Keep your feet wide the WHOLE time. Think about and picture squeezing the glutes as you move.
- Heel lifts
Key Points: Keep a neutral spine. Think about squeezing the glutes to get that heel high, the more you think about the muscles you want to use, the more you will actually use them. Don’t over arch your lower back. If you feel strain or pain in your back, reduce your range of motion or stop.
Key Points: Be sure to get a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. There should be no dip at the hips. Give the glutes a final full squeeze at the top to get that full hip extensions. This will get you the full range of motion and recruitment of the glutes. Breathe out on the way up as you squeeze the glutes.
The exercises require little or no equipment and can be done almost anywhere. Give them a go.