The muscles in your glutes (to which we collectively refer to as our glutes) play huge roles anatomically and athletically in our lives. They attach to our hips and help with walking, running, leaning and twisting, extending our knees, standing up from a seated position, they help us through, well, basically everything!
With that being said, why is it that sometimes we find it hard to use them? When a coach tells us to “squeeze” our glutes, but yet we can’t seem to get our booty in gear? If they’re so important in our everyday life, one would think everyone could use their butt to its fullest potential!
Well, sadly, that isn’t the case.
More often than not we spend most of our time sitting on our butts, which is the slow, insidious killer of athletic performance. Sitting regularly often leads to bad posture, bad posture leads to bad movement, and bad movement leads to the dark side (otherwise known as compensation).
Compensation is a by-product of our body’s ability to be so smart, so well designed, that if some muscle, some joint, if anything isn’t working correctly, it will force us, subconsciously, to work around it so we can keep being our awesome selves. That sounds great in theory, but in reality, it can lead to aching joints, poor athletic performance, or in some cases, injury.
This is related to our glutes in that, while we sit, we don’t use our butts for much. They’re more like cushions for our pelvis and spine to rest on, more often than not we are quite passive in our approach, and we’re continually suppressing our need to squeeze our butt by sitting on it. Our body is designed to use what it needs to use to live, to promote a homeostatic, or balanced, living environment. So, if something isn’t being used? It loses it. Fewer calories, oxygen, blood flow, and brain power wasted on the part of you that isn’t being regularly used, so all that energy and focus can be put towards something else.
Well, we can start with changing how we sit! When we sit, we usually are in a poor position, looking a little something like this:
These are more exaggerated postures, but they probably look a bit familiar, eh? It’s usually worse when we have a chair that can lean back, super soft and padded, turning us into very comfortable, but very poorly positioned mush.
The fix? Keeping your core tight and thinking about if you had to pinch a penny between your butt cheeks and hold it there, otherwise known as, squeezing your glutes. Keeping an active rear and engaged core will quickly turn your posture from the examples above into something more like this:
By practicing good posture, we can take a headstart on getting our glutes fired up and get a better feeling for how our body is positioned and how we use it every day.
Some other great ways to get your body moving right is addressing how we pick something off the floor:
When we reach down, we tend to curl our torso over and reach down with our arms until we magically pull our body low enough to pick something up. However, that excessive curvature of the spine and improper weight displacement on our feet can lead to some sore backs, to put it mildly. How do we fix it?
When you’re picking something up off the floor, start by pushing your hips as far back behind you as you can until you can’t go any further. This will naturally pull your torso down, and from there you just need to squat down until you can pick something up, then reverse what you just did until you stand up! By doing this, we are using our hamstrings and our butts to keep ourselves stable and safe when having to grab things off the floor.
These are two easy ways to start using our butts more often, so that when we get to the gym, and the coach is yelling at us and making arguably obscene hand gestures about squeezing our glutes, we can finally fire them!