Having the ability to engage your muscles in a way that protects and supports your body is essential for survival.
(Cue peckish Rottweiler that just found a hole in his fence.)
Running for safety, dodging a bullet, or leaping out of the way of a stray Lego piece requires agility, speed, and quickness. It also requires a solid core and strong gluteals. These two groups of muscles are present in almost every functional movement in which we engage, from the shift of sitting to standing to running up the side of a mountain. Unfortunately, over time, these two areas have become a little lazy.
Contracting The Butt And Core More Effectively
After generations of transitioning from running and hunting and foraging for food to sitting, sitting and more sitting our core and gluteal regions have become flaccid and deconditioned. Even many of my athletic patients cannot seem to locate the proper neural connection to fire off their core or gluts in any effective manner.
The Biceps Test
Put your hand on your opposite Bicep muscle. Now contract it. “Bam!!” Off like a shotgun, right? Your brain is intimately connected to your biceps in a way that resembles a super highway. Before you even fully register the message, the well-trained muscle has responded. We all tend to have excellent control over this Biceps. Now, when I have a patient do the same exercise with their hand on their abdomen or backside they cannot contract those muscles with anywhere near the same control. In many cases, they can’t make the conscious connection at all.
We need to “pave over” the dirt road (bad neural connection) leading to your core and gluteals and build a super highway. (BAM! Awesome neural connections.) You need to have the strength and support to react to what life has to throw you!
Why do effective core and glut contraction matter?
- Foundation for posture
- Directly influences daily physical tasks (housekeeping, gardening)
- Directly relates to balance
- Decreases risk of back pain
- Integrity can directly relate to aging. (balance, proprioception and neural connection)
How do I contract my core effectively?
- The SHHHHH Muscle: Envision that from way across the parking lot you would like to tell someone to be quiet. You might “shhh” them. I want you to put your hand on your belly and ‘SHHHHHHHHHH” as hard and loud as you can for a count of three. Feel what happens in your belly? It tightened! This is one of the simplest ways to make sure you are “bracing” your core correctly.
- The Bar Fight: Okay, let’s say you said a few too many choice words over your cocktail to someone and they would like to settle it physically. They might throw a punch to your stomach to get the party started. What would you do? Well, as long as you anticipated it you would have the opportunity to tighten your tummy before the punch landed. That INNATE tightening is not surprisingly one of the most effective ways to tighten the core.
But here’s what you don’t do!
- For years we have been taught to tighten our abs by sucking in and up or “hallowing” the belly. Don’t do it. It’s wrong and ineffective as a method of bracing the core.
- Also, don’t puff your tummy out thinking that that is how you tighten your core. You are not creating tight abs, you just have a belly full of air.
What about my butt?
- The hundred dollar bill: For some reason, the gluteal muscles are one of the hardest areas for people to “find” consciously. I heard a doctor explain it to a patient this way. “If I offered to give you this hundred dollar bill but only if you can carry it across the room not using your hands and you have no pockets.” Most people figure out pretty quickly how to squeeze those butt cheeks together.
Exercises for core
- Planks: You can do a combination of front and side planks. Here is a VIDEO on some alternatives to the boring plank.
- Crunches: Basic crunches still work but make sure to add variety. Do not do the same abs workout every time you hit the gym. Mix it up! Here is a link to my Pinterest board on ab workouts!
- Stability work: One of my favorite ways to work my core is to add decreased stability to the rest of my workout. For example. If I am doing a biceps curl with dumbbells, I might stand on one leg or place my feet on a BOSU ball.
Exercises for butt
- Lunges: One of the greatest exercises for legs and butt. There are so many ways to add variety to this exercise but just start with the simple walking lunge.
- Squats: My least favorite! Other than BURPEES. BUTTTTT (pun intended) they get the job done. Here is a link to proper technique.
- Donkey Kicks: I like doing these with resistance bands or a dumbbell in the nook of my knee. Perform these nice and slowly! Here is a link to show you how.
Here is a video I did explaining all this so if you would rather watch than read click the link below.
This week I challenge you with “Car Butt Squeezes”. Anytime you are in a car I want you to squeeze your right cheek for a count of ten, then your left, and then both together. Repeat this circuit ten times. Remember, your fanny is not just a fancy seat cushion!
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