The Importance of Glute Function to Your Everyday Life.
When we are talking about glutes we are not just discussing the part of you that is filling in the back of your pants. Your glutes are actually 3 muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus – and they compose the largest muscle group in your body. The glutes contribute to lower back function, as well as hip function and knee function just to begin to name a few things without getting too far down the kinetic chain. People are constantly amazed at how much relief they can get just from proper activation and stretching of the glutes.
The Gluteus Maximus is the largest of the three muscles and covers the other 2. It starts at the top of the pelvis and inserts into the rear of the femur. The medius and the minimus insert at the outer hip and together they stabilize the pelvis by stabilizing the upper femur. They extend the leg backwards, away from the body. When running (key word run, not jog) the gluteus maximus is fully activated and stabilizing the entire femur. I’ll get to the point- your glutes do a lot more than act like a cushion when you fall down on them.
When these 3 muscles aren’t doing the job that they are supposed to do, it can cause back pain, hamstring tightness, and knee pain. Amazingly there is a cure… Move your a**! Move in all sorts of directions and with a wide variety of exercises. Then stretch those muscles out.
I want you to start with a very simple activation/awareness activity. You are going to stand up and put your hands on your gluteus maximus (buttocks) and walk across the room. Keeping your hands there, slowly sit back into your chair. Hold your hands there until you just about touch down. Then come back up. First, could you feel the difference between what happened in your glutes when you walked and what happened when you sat down? Second, could you lower yourself without dropping into your chair?
First, you should feel a lot of activation when you sit down. But you should barely feel any activation when you walk. Second, if you can’t lower yourself into your chair you have weak glutes and possibly some other core dysfunctions.
Here are just a few things that can cause your glutes to not function properly: Sitting for extended periods of time, standing still for prolonged periods, wearing high healed shoes for extended periods of time, and repetitive movement (standing or seated). Notice how much doing the same thing for an extended period of time can lead to a dysfunction? Because your glutes are designed to do so many things, it is important to try to utilize them for all their purposes. To make a long story short, they are important and you need them to work the right way.
Let’s talk about dysfunction. It is a blanket term. Meaning that maybe your glutes don’t fire in the order they are supposed to, or maybe they are too weak or too tight to perform. Sometimes they aren’t firing through no fault of their own – our hip flexors or extensors can be the problem. Learning to do proper squats, lunges, side lunges, hip lifts, balance work, bird dogs, single leg deadlifts, stiff leg deadlifts, step-ups, squat jumps, stability ball bridges, stability ball squeezes, bull dogs, pelvic tilts, transverse lunges all have unique contributions in activating the glutes and relieving aches and pains. As you can see it is a lot of information that is too vast to cover in a single article. I promise in my next article we will cover some basic ways to activate your glutes. We will also talk more about exercises done for the glutes to take tension out of the surrounding muscles.