Tag: glutes

Keep Your Piriformis in Good Form.

The piriformis muscle lies deep to the gluteal muscles in the buttocks. It is an important lateral rotator, the position your leg is in while kicking a ball with your instep, and a essential stabilizer of the pelvis. Because of its importance in our mobilization and balance, it is not only used in vigorous exercise and sports, but also in activities such as getting up from a chair or walking. We are constantly putting demands on this muscle, yet because of the depth and location many are unaware they have a tight piriformis.

If this muscle remains tight it can irritate surrounding structures, such as nerves, which may result in pain. This pain can show up as low back pain, buttock pain, or pain running down the back of the leg. Other symptoms may include numbness, tingling, or a decrease in sensation in those areas.

Perpetuating factors include sitting for extended amounts of time and sitting with your legs crossed, quite common with the desk work and travel demands of todayʼs world. Climbing stairs, squatting, or running might exacerbate the discomfort our tight piriformis might be creating. This can be a frustrating cycle… we want to exercise because we sit all day… but when we sit all day, our tight piriformis might make certain exercises uncomfortable.

Talking with your personal trainer, massage therapist, yoga instructor, or another member of your self-care team, can help you build a great plan to keep your piriformis in good form. Static stretching, foam rolling, hydrotherapy, trigger point therapy, and myofascial release, are all great treatments for a tight muscles. Donʼt let your piriformis cause you to lose form, chat with your team and learn what you can do to help it!

Runners, Cyclists, and Athletes – Tight hip flexors? Low back pain?

The combination of certain activities – especially running, hiking and cycling – followed by sitting for long periods of time, can contribute to tension in the front of the hip, and pain in the low back. Have you had a day of activity, followed by a long drive home? Or had a great run or ride, maybe an intense spin class, then sat for hours at the desk? The hip flexors are in a shortened position while sitting, tighten, and then the nagging pain in the low back will often follow. Those muscles in the crease of your hip can actually get so tight, that they stop other neighboring muscles from working. The deep glutes can stop activating when walking. If this pattern continues, not only can your bottom become flat and flabby – AND WHO WANTS THAT – but back pain or discomfort generally follow. Our posture, while standing or walking will change. The top of the hip bones are pulled forward, which increases the curve of the lower back.

What will help, when this imbalance occurs? One stretch that is particularly helpful is a lunge, with the back knee down, sometimes know as the “lizard pose”. Ask one of our massage therapists, trainers or instructors to help you with this. Something else to try is to lay face down on a mat, with a lacrosse ball underneath you, positioned on the front and side of the hip. This can be a little intense, or uncomfortable at first, but if you are consistent, and try it for a few minutes every day, the hip flexors will loosen.

The best solution of all is to get a therapeutic massage session. There are a couple of assisted stretches that will target the front and side of the hip, as well as deep tissue and fascial techniques, that will really make a difference.

Try all three – stretching, self-care with the lacrosse “torture” ball, and a professional massage. Why live with that nagging pain? With some focused effort, one can really make some changes, and start moving freely again. Thank you for reading this,

Leo DiLorenzo
Licensed Massage Therapist
Seattle Athletic Club

Are Your Glutes Fired Up?

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.

Inactive 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.

Overshadowed 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:

  • 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.

Lengthen:

  • Try static stretching on your hamstrings, hip flexors, quads and muscles surrounding your ankles.

Activate:

  • Hip thrust

hip thrust 2 - sylvia hip thrust 1 - sylvia

  • Single leg hip thrusts

Single leg hip thrust 2 - sylvia

single leg hip thrust 1 - sylvia

  • Monster walk

 

Banded knee squat 1 - sylviaBanded knee squat 1 - sylvia

Integrate:

  • 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.

Advanced Plank Variations

After you have successfully done the beginner and moderate variations of the plank, try the more difficult versions. Below are eight different versions of the plank that I would consider more difficult than the last.

Correct plank form:

  • Wrists directly underneath your shoulders
  • Squeeze your glutes
  • Tighten your abdominals
  • Keep a neutral neck and spine
  • Create a straight line from head to toe
  • Do not bend at the waist causing a sag toward the ground or a lift toward the ceiling
Exercise Difficulty Example
One arm plank Difficult     One-arm-plank_1
One leg plank Difficult  One-leg-plank_2
In and out plank: progression-wide leg Difficult  In-and-out-plank_3
Ski Plank Difficult  Ski-Plank_4
Low oblique plank Difficult  Low-oblique-plank_5
Plank twist Difficult  Plank-twist_6
Swiss ball plank: progression-feet up Moderate-Difficult  Swiss-ball-plank_7
Swiss ball plank pike Difficult  Swiss-ball-plank-pike_8

If you need help or have any questions about these or any other variations of the plank please contact Amber Gruger or any of the other fitness trainers.

Moderate Plank Variations

Correct plank form:

  • Wrists directly underneath your shoulders
  • Squeeze your glutes
  • Tighten your abdominals
  • Keep a neutral neck and spine
  • Create a straight line from head to toe
  • Do not bend at the waist causing a sag toward the ground or a lift toward the ceiling
Side plank: progression-hip dip Moderate  Moderate-Plank-Variations_1
Walking plank Moderate  Moderate-Plank-Variations_2
Plank punch Moderate  Moderate-Plank-Variations_3
Mountain climber plank Moderate  Moderate-Plank-Variations_4
Swiss ball plank: progression-feet up Moderate-Difficult  Moderate-Plank-Variations_5

 

Here are five different moderate variations for the plank exercise. Once you have mastered the beginning exercises I gave you in my last blog (http://sacdt.com/blog/author/a-gruger/), you can work toward these. Master these next and then keep your eyes peeled for the difficult variations. If you have any questions please contact Amber Gruger at agruger@sacdt.com.

 

Beginner plank variations

Have you ever seen someone in the gym doing a plank and you’re thinking to yourself “wow that looks easy…”? While performing a plank may look easy, correct form is critical to receiving benefits as well as reducing injury. There are many different ways of performing a plank, but I suggest starting with the beginner variations until you perfect your form.

Correct plank form:

  • Wrists or elbows directly underneath your shoulders
  • Squeeze your glutes
  • Tighten your abdominals
  • Keep a neutral neck and spine
  • Create a straight line from head to toe
  • Do not bend at the waist causing a sag toward the ground or a lift toward the ceiling

 

Below are four different variations of the plank that would be considered a beginning level exercise but can be used by all fitness levels.

Exercise Difficulty Example
Modified plank Beginner  Modified-plank_1
Plank Beginner  Plank_2
Low plank Beginner  Low-plank_3
Reverse plank Beginner  Reverse-plank_4

 

Moderate and advanced plank variations will be coming soon. To prepare yourself master these exercises first. To make them harder, hold for a longer amount of time or up your number of repetitions. If you have any questions please contact personal fitness trainer Amber Gruger or any other trainer available.