Here’s a question for you:
How much do you think about your butt muscles?
If you’ve never had a massage or any reason to notice your butt muscles (aka glutes), you probably think about it………….. almost never.
If, on the other hand, you’ve been to see us for anything from the belly button down, you’ve probably started thinking about it a lot more than you ever thought you would.
Weak or underactive glutes are a common underlying cause of So. Many. Problems. (and yes, I will be writing a post about why glute activation is so important, it is on the content calendar, and I will link it up when it’s ready.)
If you’d like to watch the 3 easy ways to activate the glutes in no extra time, vs read the next section, here’s a slightly different version from our YouTube channel:
Not sure if you have glute activation problem? Check out this question of the month and learn how to test your glute activation/SIJ stability.
Traditionally, when someone comes to us with a glute activation problem, we recommend a protocol that starts with a knee lift exercise to wake the glutes up, and graduates to squats/lunges/one-legged or Bulgarian split squats/ the frog/ the glute bridge/ and ET CETERA.
But I got to thinking.
Isn’t it kind of counterproductive to have our clients only thinking about their glutes, only, like once or twice a week? Or only when they’re training?
One of the biggest issues around glutes is that because we don’t use them in our day-to-day normal life, it’s much harder to get them to switch on when we exercise.
How about a simple 3-step shift in how you move in their day to day life, to encourage glutes to fire all throughout your day?
After trying it with my clients for the last 4-5 months, I thought it was time to share it with… everyone!
There are two benefits to this:
- You can now be working on your glutes WITHOUT finding time for extra exercises (which gives you a good baseline – though you should still work on your glutes with strength training if you do any sort of physical activity – including cycling to work)
- If you’re switching your glutes on throughout your day, it should make it much easier to get them to wake up when you then go for a long walk, climb on your bike, do your next weights session, or get ready for your next training run.
Are you ready to learn what these 3 techniques are?
I hope so, because I’m going to tell you.
Wake Your Glutes Up: Do Knee Lifts in the Morning
Out of everything I’m going to tell you to do, these are probably the most time intensive (all of, um, 30-60 seconds).
If you’ve been to us for anything glute-related, you’ve probably gotten this exercise – it’s our starter glute activator.
A quick reminder:
- Stand with legs hip-width apart, arms’ length from the wall (with your hands on the wall for balance).
- WITHOUT shifting your shoulder or hip away from the midline
- Lift one knee up to as close as hip-level as possible (keeping your hips level) – to a count of about… 4 or 5.
- Repeat 10 times before switching to the other side.
You should feel a very slight working feeling in the outside/back of the STANDING leg.
The glute in the standing leg should be contracting to stabilise your pelvis.
If you need help, you can put your hand on that standing glute to tell your brain ‘here, recruit this one’.
This IS the one that you kind of need to find time for.
Here are 3 easy ways to fit it in to your morning:
- Do it while you brush your teeth.
- Do it while you’re waiting for your toast to pop up or the kettle to boil.
- Do it when you are waiting for anything for about 30-60 seconds.
Think of it like a wake up call to your brain, to “please use that particular muscle while we’re walking around today”.
Use Your Glutes to Stand Up & Sit Down
Most of us stand and sit quite a few times during the day.
Most of us also do weird things with our body so what’s getting us up and down are our quads (front of thigh muscles), hamstrings, lower back, and even shoulders. We do this because our glutes aren’t switched on and/or aren’t strong enough through years of unconscious avoidance.
Instead of mindlessly compensating for your neglected glutes, try this approach (all it requires is a bit of attention, any time you remember).
When you’re sitting down:
- Try not to let your shoulders go too far forward – keep them in line with or slightly behind your knees.
- As you lower, and bend your knees, try to keep your knees over your ankles as much as possible. They may go to your toes, but please, try not to let them go past your toes.
- Watch your knee alignment – don’t let your knees collapse in towards the middle as they bend. Activate the outside of your hip to keep the knees open and in line with your feet.
- Imagine as you lower that your glutes are contracting to prevent you from sitting down, as far as you can OR until you feel yourself hitting the chair.
(note: if you have very tight quads, ITB, or piriformis, you may feel weird stretches or pulls keeping yourself in this alignment. If you try it, and feel any of these things, just let us know in your next session so we can release anything that may be preventing you from keeping good alignment)
When you’re standing from sitting:
- Before you stand up, contract your glutes (i.e. squeeze your butt cheeks) just slightly, about 10% of your max.
- Check that your ankles are directly under your knees – i.e. don’t start with your knee forward of your toes.
- Pushing through your heels, use your glutes (i.e. butt/hips) to push yourself up – vs pulling yourself up with your thighs.
- You will have to lean forward a bit to stand up, but again, keep your shoulders as upright as you can.
- Don’t stop contracting your glutes until your hips, knees, and ankles are all in alignment (i.e. you’re standing up straight).
This approach to standing and sitting does take some practice, especially if your glutes have been ignored for a long time.
But once you get them active you’ll find standing up and sitting down much easier on your knees and you may even notice an improvement in any lower back issues you may get from time to time.
Use Your Glutes Going Up Stairs
This last one is probably the trickiest of the 3 to get your head around, but it does get easier with practice.
Most people, when they go up and down the stairs, are very heavy on their quads and hamstrings.
This mindset to going up stairs will help re-train your brain to get your glutes in on the action, and hopefully take some pressure off the quads.
- When you put your foot on the next step up, try to place your ankle underneath your knee as directly as you can.
- Imagine that your glutes/hips are pushing your torso/body UP and OVER your foot (vs your thigh/leg/knee is PULLING you up to the next step).
- To get a better connection with your glutes, if the stair is big enough that you can put your whole foot on it, push up through your heel instead of your toes.
- To make it easier to connect in with your glutes, contract your lower stomach muscles and pelvic floor.
Now, Get Started!
Take a few minutes to practice each of these movements, so you can feel the connection to your glutes and feel comfortable with the alignment.
Choose one to incorporate in your week before you add another. This will allow you to focus on doing one thing well at a time, vs doing three things poorly and probably, let’s face it, forgetting it all together.
Remember, if you have any trouble with any of them, just ask us in your next session.
Do you know anyone who could use some help waking up their glutes in their day to day life?
Please share this article with them so they can start practicing too.
Once you’ve tried them, leave a comment below: how do you find it? Is one of them easier or harder than the others? I’d love to know if you’re able to feel that glute connection.