Are your glutes sleepy? The “glutes” are made up of four muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and tensor fasciae latae (TFL). Of these four, the gluteus maximus is the largest and one of the strongest muscles in the body but underactive and overlooked in training. Having active glutes will improve athleticism, hip stability, appearance and quality of daily activities. These muscles are so powerful; one could wonder how and why they become inactive.
Most of us find ourselves sitting for a good portion of the day. We sit at work, in the car, we sit when we eat and for some of us, we even sit in the machines here at the gym. Let’s take a look at what all this sitting does to our muscles. Your hip flexors (the muscles at the top front of the thigh) are a primary mover in raising our legs. When sitting all day, they are in a constant shortened state which makes them very tight. Now let’s roll over to the back side of the body. With shortened and tight hip flexors,the opposing muscles, your glutes, are in an overstretched and INACTIVE position.
There are many reasons why your glutes are not firing the way they should be but the two most common, are inactive and overshadowed glutes.
This is simply; your glutes not firing correctly or being engaged. Imagine your glutes in a constant state of shutdown or the term “sleepy”. Oftentimes this is due to inactivity. Doing low level activities like getting up from a chair, or easy walking only minimally engage your glutes.
This is when other lower body muscles like the quads or hamstrings become much stronger than your glutes. This will cause them to become dominate and take over the exercise. For example, exercises like lunges that should be targeting and strengthening the glutes end up being powered by other stronger lower body muscles. In this scenario your glutes are working and firing correctly, just overshadowed. Even the best athletes can have overshadowed glutes.
Now what, how do I fire up my butt?
Getting the glutes to wake up and fire is a multi-dimensional approach through loosening, lengthening, and activating the correct muscles. Below are some suggestions on how to go about this.
- Loosen up the tight muscles. Self myofascial release (most people will know this as foam rolling) is a great way to loosen your tight muscles. Try using a lacrosse ball on your hip flexors and foam roll on your quads.
- Try static stretching on your hamstrings, hip flexors, quads and muscles surrounding your ankles.
- Hip thrust
- Single leg hip thrusts
- Monster walk
- Banded knee squats
Learning to activate your glutes will help athleticism, improve daily activities and give you a fresh start on exercise. Implementing these activation exercises into your warm up before you exercise will help ensure that your glutes are “awake” during your workout. Keep in mind that every person is going to be different and have their own set of specific needs. Doing just one single approach may not be the correct prescription to waking up your glutes. If you need assistance on figuring out which approach would be best for you, consult with a personal trainer.