Glute activation is currently a bit of a buzz word at the minute. Just like ‘functional’ in years gone by. But what is it? Why is it important? Why would you need to activate your glutes?
The main reason would be that most people sit hunched over, behind a desk all day. As well as causing potential postural problems in the back and shoulders it also causes the hip flexors to become overly active, where they then shorten and tighten up. This shortening of the muscle and natural pull on the hips then inhibits the function of the glutes. The glutes can then lengthen which then restricts there ability to fire up. This lack of glute activation could then lead to back pain, hip pain and even knee pain.
Now, you may already think that you do lots of exercises that target the glutes like lunges, squats and deadlifts, which are all great exercises. But, if the glutes aren’t fired up your minimising the effectiveness of those awesome exercises. Your glutes are potentially one of the strongest muscles in the body, so just think if they were functioning as they should, how much more weight could you lift? How much more explosive would you be? How good would your bum look in those skinny jeans? It’s a win-win really.
So, the way to look at it is this.
‘The glutes may be weak because the hip flexors are tight,
or the hip flexors are tight because the glutes are weak!’
The solution is the same either way you look at it. You need to activate the glutes and stretch the hip flexors.
There are so many cool exercises that you can do to get those glutes fired up. Hip Bridges are great as they also facilitate a little stretch on the hip flexors, as well as get the glutes pumped up (depending on how you perform them). However, my go-to glute activation exercises utilise the resistance bands. Namely ‘Monster Walks’ and ‘Lateral Walks’. See my version in the YouTube clip below.
The key with both of these banded walks is to keep tension in the band. DO NOT let your feet come together or drag across the floor, and DO NOT let your knees cave in when you are walking. Keep the knees soft, and the torso upright with a slight hinge at the hips. I find this way you hit the whole hip musculature, most notably the gluteus medius. The great thing with these banded walks is that you will know if you get it right, it will burn like crazy. Work on the technique and force those glutes to fire up.
The moral of the story is that if you spend all day sat on your ass, you are causing that ass to go to sleep. Get up and move it!