By Sarah J Pitts of Most Motion
If you’ve been a member of a sports or fitness club for any length of time and you’ve picked up the odd niggly injury or two, it’s quite likely that you’ve been told that you have weak glutes. It also quite likely that you’ve been given a few exercises to strengthen them.
But wait! What if strengthening them wasn’t actually the best way to fix the problem?
What if strengthening your glutes would actually make the problem WORSE?
If you’ve been told you have weak glutes and you’re ready for a different approach, then read on, because a brand new solution to this age-old problem lies within!
I have 3 main issues with strengthening as a solution to the weak glutes problem. The first is that
The Perceived Weakness is Actually a Restriction
What do I mean by this? Well, there’s a big difference between a weak muscle and the restricted function of one. Let me demonstrate:
Keep looking at the screen with both eyes, now cover one eye up with your hand. Is the covered eye weaker or just restricted? If you train the covered eye to be stronger, will it give you better eyesight? Of course not! In order to restore your eyesight, you’d need to remove your hand from covering your eye up (which you can do now by the way, if you haven’t already!).
So, if your glutes are, in fact, restricted not weak, how did this happen and what can you do about it?
Your glutes (your buttocks) and hip flexors (the area around the crease of your hip) always work together and given that our western lifestyle often has us sitting, driving, bending forwards and lifting in front of our bodies, it is very common practice for the hip flexors to get too tight. When this happens they get short which pulls the glutes into a lengthened position. As the hip flexors are so tight they cannot lengthen easily, the glutes get stuck in the lengthened position and cannot shorten easily.
Until the hip flexors are able to lengthen, the glutes will continue to struggle to shorten, which is why the glutes are often diagnosed as being ‘weak’. Fortunately, there’s a really simple exercise you can do in this video to help lengthen the hip flexors. It doesn’t require any kit, you won’t need to warm up and anyone, with any level of movement can do it! Check out the video here.
The second issue I have with strengthening as a solution to weak glutes is
The Glutes Are Doing a Different Job
When the hip flexors get tight and short, the glutes are pulled long and as a result go tight, but they do this in order to stabilize the hip joint. Any distraction from this job, such as isolated strengthening exercises, may eventually lead to a compromise of the stability of the joint and further injury.
In the same way, continued repetition of activities such as cycling, driving, gardening, squatting, deadlifting and others that encourage the shortening of the hip flexors, especially at the expense of the lengthening of the hip flexors will put further strain on the already lengthened glutes which may lead to injury.
Fortunately, we can be sneaky and encourage the lengthening of the hip flexors and the same time as allowing the glutes to shorten, but most importantly, not distracting the body from it’s task of stabilizing the joint. This gives the body confidence in allowing the changes required as the stability of the joint is not compromised in any way.
You can use the exercise in this video to try this new approach for yourself
The third issue I have with strengthening as a solution to weak glutes is that
Strengthening Can Make Your Issue Worse
We have already seen how the glutes are restricted in their function and focused on doing a different job. As they are stuck long and tight, it is very hard work for your body to then try and shorten them as it must fight against the restriction and tension of the shortened hip flexors. This goes against one of the most important laws of nature which is the law of the conservation of energy.
Every living thing is pre-programmed to find the quickest and easiest way to do anything. It’s why squirrels horde nuts, it’s why bears hibernate and it’s why human bodies will cheat at movement at every opportunity.
To force your body to do something that fights against this law will certainly lead to problems eventually.
To solve this problem, it is better to use movements that encourage the use of the entire range of motion and requires the involvement of the whole body at once, like the example in this video.
Using this different approach, the hip flexors and the glutes are taken through a range of motion that encourages the shortening and lengthening of both muscle groups simultaneously. This provides the stability that your body requires and will facilitate the restoration of optimal joint function by working with the natural instincts and capabilities of your body, rather than fighting against them.
This is the reason that this method of mobility training and rehabilitation is more effective as a long term solution than strengthening the supposedly weak glutes.
Now that you have dabbled in this different approach to mobility training and injury rehabilitation, I’d like to invite you to come and join my FREE online community group at wigglewithme.com. In the group you’ll get access to my LIVE video show, all your questions answered and much, MUCH more!
So come on over now and join us!
Thanks for the insight Sarah, find out more about ‘The Wiggle’ here
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