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Turn on Your Glutes

August 31, 2011

By Gerard Bochese

Many people look to strengthen and tone their posterior (glutes) by engaging in exercises such as squats, lunges, and step ups.  These exercises are great for that purpose as long as your glutes are firing correctly.

Many people are in a seated position throughout the day – sitting at work, sitting in the car, sitting to eat, sitting to watch television.  As a result our glutes (butt) get neurologically turned off.  This means that the nervous system cannot make the connection with the muscular system to have the glutes engage during exercise.  As a result, other muscles, such as the hamstrings or quadriceps, do the work for the glutes.  Not only are the glutes not receiving the benefit of the exercise but the body begins to develop improper movement patterns which can result in postural deviations and eventually injury.

A test exercise to see if the glutes are working correctly is the Cook Hip Lift.  To perform this exercise lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.  Place a tennis ball on your rib cage, and pull one knee to your chest hard enough to hold the tennis ball in place.  From this position, push down against the foot that is still on the floor to extend your hips and raise your butt off the ground 2-3 inches, while keeping the tennis ball tight against your ribs with the opposite leg.  Lower your hips back to the ground and repeat.

By using the tennis ball pulled to your chest you will not be able to use lumbar extension (arching your back) but only hip extension to accomplish the exercise.  If your hamstrings cramp during this test then the glutes are not being properly activated and are probably neurologically shut down.  This means that your training program will need to include exercises to “turn the glutes back on”.

If you do not correct this situation than your squats, lunges, and step ups will not target the glutes (butt) and you will not achieve the results you are looking for in your exercise program.

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