This post is all about BUMS!
As the largest and strongest muscle group in the body (i’ll say!), why is it so important that they are strengthened on the regular?
Let’s first have a look at what they do using some fancy Latin names:
Gluteus Maximus - Maintains balance as you walk or run. When you walk it tightens to slow your leg down and when you run it helps propel you forward and also controls the forward momentum of your trunk. It lifts you from a squatted position and helps you to climb stairs.
Gluteus Medius - Maintains a level pelvis on the opposite side to the active leg. Weakness in this muscle causes an abnormal walking pattern called the Trendelberg gait; the trunk of the body leans over the stationary leg to maintain it’s centre of gravity. Weakness also causes shortened and less efficient steps.
Gluteus Minimus - The smallest of all three. This muscles keeps the ball of the femur in the socket. It can move the thigh forward, out to the side and rotate the thigh both inwards and outwards.
So what are the benefits of well trained glutes (apart from being rather great to look at)?!
1. Better posture - Tight, shortened hip flexors and weak, overstretched hip extensors and glutes that ‘forget’ how to activate properly all contribute to commonly observed postural deviations: sway back and kyphosis/lordosis (excessively curved spine in the thoracic/lumbar regions). Forward tilting hips push the abdomen out, creating the illusion of a ‘gut’, even in the absence of one!
ACTION: Try adding squats, lunges and dead-lifts to your training routine. (Make sure you stretch out your thighs afterwards)
2. Pain reduction and injury prevention - Strong glutes support the lower back. If they aren’t strong enough to perform their hip extensor function, ‘helper’ muscles take over. Over time these become overstressed, resulting in pain and compression in the lumbar spine, hips and knees. Because the glutes are also hip stabilizers, weak gluteal muscles can result in poor alignment of the entire lower body, leaving you prone to injuries including Achilles tendonitis, shin splints, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains and tears and iliotibial (IT) band syndrome.
ACTION: Protect your hips, knees and ankles by strengthening your glutes with hip thrusts, single leg dead lifts and weighted clam shells (great for targeting glut med).
3. Improved athletic performance - Bums can generate an enormous amount of POWER. Speed, acceleration, vertical climbing and endurance, training these muscles enables us to walk, run, cycle faster, harder and longer. Sounds good doesn’t it?
ACTION: Add a day or two of lower body strength training into your week, or simply run up a really steep hill. Nice. (Again, make sure you stretch afterward. One legged pigeon pose is brilliant for keeping your hips open and flexible).
4. Increased bone density - Exercises that place mechanical stress on the bones, including lower body weight training, running and some forms of yoga, can postpone and even reverse the effects of age-related bone-density loss.
ACTION: incorporate these into your training as soon as possible to achieve greater potential benefits.
5. Fat loss and fat loss maintenance - Unlike tissue, muscle is metabolically active, meaning that even when you’re not working out, your muscles will burn calories from stored fat. In fact, studies suggest that for every pound of muscle you build, your body will burn an extra 50 calories per day. Given that the glutes and hamstrings are two of the largest muscle groups in the body, their potential contribution to fat loss is not to be underestimated.
ACTION: Incorporate a variety of squats and lunges into your workout to continue burning calories for 24-48 hours after your workout is over.
Excellent! So in a nutshell, good strong glutes help us to stand well, exercise with more power and efficiency, keep our bones good and strong and maintain a healthy BMI. WICKED.
Now - where do I squat?