THE GLUTEALS: TWO OF THE MOST IMPORTANT MUSCLES YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT
“Butt,” “heiny,” “rear,” “fanny,” “cheeks,” – Words used to describe those two bubbles that follow close behind us wherever we go. Those bubbles are perfect padding for sitting, great for shaking on the dance floor, and a nice beginning to the tops of our legs.
But is there a deeper purpose beneath all that glory? Our behinds, although often aesthetically pleasing, are not just form, they’re function. Let’s talk anatomy.
THE “BUTT,” OR GLUTEALS ARE ACTUALLY SEVERAL LAYERS OF MUSCLES!
The biggest, most superficial layer is the Gluteus Maximus. Below the Gluteus Maximus are the Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus, Piriformis, Quadratus Femoris, Obturator Internus, Inferior Gamellus, and Superior Gamellus. These muscles work together to make an excellent foundation of support for the spine above. If properly balanced with the abdominal muscles, and the rest of the pelvic floor, the stress on the spine during activity is relatively minimal.
However, there is a problem. Since the time when survival required us to seek and do battle with our dinner is long past, we no longer utilize these muscles as intensively or frequently. Add the fact that many of us sit for a living and these muscles have all but shut down. Look around. Check out people’s butts. They are either flat and non-existent or they are of such significant proportions that while impressive, are little more than soft cushions for one to sit on.
When tested for their ability to actively contract their gluteals, many cannot find their butt muscles with their brain. Let me use a more familiar muscle as an analogy. If I asked you to contract your bicep muscle you could fire off those receptors immediately. You would flex your arm and a ball of well-contracted muscle would appear. “Bam, check out these guns!” you might add. But when I ask you to fire off your butt muscles with equal vigor there is likely little response.
Many people only feel a quiver beneath their padding. It is not for lack of trying. What is happening? The brain, attempting to send signals down a nerve to the gluteal muscles, is dealing with tough terrain. When the gluteal muscles are not used as regularly as they should be, the nerve path is little more than a little dirt road covered in weeds.
Our nerves are meant to travel pathways like superhighways. We should have innervation so strong that all muscles, including the gluteals, fire off like a cannon. “Bam!” But from disuse, or overuse of surrounding muscles, the butt muscles become weak and neglected.
We all could benefit from time spent working on our butt strength. But, to strengthen, we must first find them.
FINDING THE ELUSIVE GLUTEALS
Place one hand on each butt cheek. Squeeze your butt muscles to create a contraction. You should feel the muscle tighten under your hand. If you don’t try these helpful hints:
- Pretend you have to go to the bathroom (not number one) and there are no options around you. You might squeeze that butt together to stop from having an unfortunate accident.
- Sometimes the gluts are easier to find when your body is in a different position than standing. Try squeezing your butt in different postures like sitting or lying down.
- Finally, pretend I am going to give you a one hundred dollar bill. The catch is you have to carry the bill across the room using only your butt cheeks.
You found them, didn’t you?
STRENGTHENING THE BEAUTIFUL BUTT
Once you become successful with the action of contraction, we can move on to some simple strengthening exercises.
- Bilateral Butt Clench – Contract both sides of your butt together (hundred dollar bill) for counts of ten.
- Alternate Butt Clenches – Alternately contract each butt muscle at varying speeds. These exercises are great while driving in the car or while brushing your teeth.
- Bodyweight Squats – Stand with feet hip-width distance apart. Lower your body by flexing at the knees and the hips. Stay back on your heels to protect the knees. Keep your head and chest up. Position your arms either behind your head or straight out in front of your body. Return to the standing position slowly by squeezing the gluts. Repeat.
- Lunges – Keep your head, chest, and shoulders up and focus on a point in front of you. Take a step forward and lower your body toward the ground by bending the front knee and hip. Make sure your front knee does not extend past your ankle and the back knee should not completely touch the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg.
- Step Ups – Use a box or bench at a height from which you can safely step up and down. Stand facing the bench and place your right foot completely on top. Step up onto the platform placing your left foot beside your right. Try not to use too much momentum to get you to the top of the box. Step down very carefully with the right foot. Keep your core tight throughout this exercise. Repeat with starting with the left foot.
- Hip Thrusts – Also called a “Glute Bridge,” you start with your shoulders on a bench, perpendicular to the line of the bench. Bend your knees and keep your butt and feet flat on the ground. This is the starting position. From here tighten your core and slowly lift your hips off the ground to form a bridge. Most of the work should be coming from squeezing your glutes. Your butt should be parallel with your shoulders and knees. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat.
Your buttocks are not attached to your body just to look splendid in your jeans. The many muscles that make up your heiny are essential for the proper functioning of our core and spine. The simple truth is that the gluteal muscles will not stand by and be ignored. If left unattended they will become flaccid and weak, and will likely show their displeasure in the form of pain or injury.
Give your butt the attention it needs and deserves. These glorious, paired, harbingers of strength must be active members of the team if you are going to have successful, long-term support of posture, core, and spine.
This week practice alternating squeezing each butt muscle individually for counts of ten. The more you fire the stronger the connection will become between brain and bum! This means great news for the support of the rest of your spine and core.
GET THAT BUTT STRONGER! ENJOY A FREE “DESIGN YOUR OWN STAIRS WORKOUT.”
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