Even a large meaty muscle like the large glute in the buttocks can be misunderstood and neglected. That is why the focus of this post is to locate and feel the glutes. Once you feel the glutes, you can move on with more challenging exercises like the squat to strengthen them. Adding squats into your daily routine will build endurance. Remember: these large muscles are often very weak and very lazy, and thus not easy to feel.
Keep your goal in mind. The reason we want strong glutes is because of how strength and stability play out not only in the pelvis, but also in the lower body. Remember that strong glutes decrease the risk of pain in the low back, as well as injury and pain in knees and ankles. Endurance and a balance of strength in these hip muscles are crucial for walking, climbing stairs, getting out of chairs, and standing upright without strain or pain. This muscle group also aids in balance.
Once you learn the movement properly it will only take ten minutes a day to add a couple of these life-enhancing exercises to your workout. If you do them properly, with the correct goal in mind, you will feel the benefits. Focus and concentrate on two or three exercises at a time, and then reward yourself with a relaxation or a stretch.
Brain to body
Practicing exercises in good movement patterns creates a clear memory pathway. Sensory nerves carry to the brain information about what is happening in the body. The brain integrates and coordinates the many messages coming up from your body and sends down an order signaling the muscles to contract to ‘meet’ the situation. The situation may be getting out of a low chair or picking up a heavy bag from the floor. If these neural connections work well, the brain tells the body to activate the proper muscles to create stability and ease when performing the movement. This can mean lack of pain, less chance of injury, less wear and tear. Remember if the glutes are not working properly knees overwork, ankles buckle, aches and pains materialize out of the blue in the thigh, hip or shin. Small muscles around the low back take over and these muscles are not designed to lift heavy objects (such as your own body) and you may end up damaging discs and joints. You need to do these movements correctly and do them often.
If you are not feeling what you’re supported to feel, or you feel pain, stop. Take a break and return to the exercise in day or so. Better yet, review the exercise with your physio or movement teacher. You will get there. And it may change your life.
The last part of the video shows a very challenging exercise: the split squat. The split squat may never be right for you, so stay with the ordinary squat, and your bridges (previous blog) and clam exercises (next week’s blog).
Final word: Don’t forget about the abdominals as they will help stabilize and support the core. Gently draw them in without changing the natural curve of your low back. We will be exploring the abdominal connection in future blogs.