Lazy glutes? It’s more common than you think. When your glutes spend most of their time in a relaxed state, you end up with weak, saggy buttocks that have no shape. Even worse, you could end up with back pain. Strong glutes are a must for proper posture and for taking stress off your back so that your spine doesn’t have to work as hard. Surprisingly, weak and lazy glutes can even trigger knee pain or hip pain since strong gluteal muscles help stabilize your limbs. When you have weak glutes, your risk for lower body injury goes up.
How You Develop Lazy Glutes?
It’s easy to see why people who don’t exercise, especially those who don’t strength train, have weak glutes. Muscles that don’t get stimulated regularly get lazy, Yet, even if you work out and do exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges, you may not be fully activating your glutes, especially if you use improper technique. In addition, you may be sacrificing the benefits of lower body strength training by sitting in a chair all day. Yes, sitting is bad for your heart and blood sugar but your buttocks bear the brunt as well.
Sitting in a chair too much is a common cause of lazy glutes, also referred to as glute amnesia. When you sit, your hip flexors, the muscles that lift your knees and help you bend at the waist, become contracted and shortened. The opposing muscles, the glutes, compensate for this shortening by relaxing, meaning they’re no longer activated. The relaxation of opposing muscles when another muscle is contracted is called reciprocal inhibition and applies to any two opposing muscles. If you assume a sitting position for 6 or more hours a day, your glutes get no stimulation and they become weaker.
Muscle Imbalances and Anterior Pelvic Tilt
A hip flexor/glute imbalance can affect your posture as well. When you sit day after day, tightening of your hip flexors and weakening of your glutes can lead to an imbalance we called an anterior pelvic tilt. This is a posture where your hips tilt too far forward. Such positioning does little for your appearance or the health of your spine. In fact, it creates a muscle imbalance and negatively impacts your posture when you’re standing or sitting and impedes your movements when you walk or run. This anterior tilt even causes your tummy and buttocks to stick out and look more prominent. If you look in the mirror while standing sideways, you’ll see your back curves inward because your hip flexors are overly contracted and your glutes are too weak to compensate.
Sitting isn’t the only cause of glute weakness. Have you had a recent back injury? If so, that can cause your glutes to “turn off” as a mechanism to prevent pain. If your back is sore, you tend to move as few muscles as possible to reduce discomfort. After a time, especially if the injury is sustained, your glutes become accustomed to being turned off and even after the injury has healed, your glutes may not “snap back.” They’ve become weak and ineffective and you’re again at risk for another back injury. It can be a vicious cycle.
Waking Up Sleepy Glutes
Obviously, if your glutes are slumbering you need to wake them up, not only to improve how they look but how they function. Functioning glutes help keep your spine, hips, and knees healthy. So, how CAN you awaken them?
The first step is to break up periods of sitting during the day. Even lower body strength training several days a week can’t make up for six or more hours of undisturbed sitting. When you’re at work, don’t let yourself stay in a sitting position for longer than 30 minutes. Stand up and stretch, walk around, and, if possible, do some isometric glute squeezes. Anything to fire up your glutes more to make up for sitting.
Activate Lazy Glutes More When You Do Lower Body Exercises
Just because you’re doing squats, deadlifts, or lunges doesn’t automatically mean you’re firing up your glutes. Do you feel your glutes working when you do these exercises? If not, reduce the weight you’re using and concentrate on your form. Slow the movements and focus on feeling the burn in your glutes. When you squat, go deeper. Deep squats activate your glutes more than more shallow ones. Also, use a wider stance with your feet more than shoulder-width apart to focus in on your glutes.
Add Focused Lazy Glute Exercises to Your Routine
Squats, deadlifts, and lunges are great compound exercises that, when you do them properly, fire up your glutes. But you may need more. Women tend to be quadriceps dominant and often have weaker hamstrings and glutes. Compensate by doing exercises that specifically target your glutes. One of the best-focused glute exercises is glute bridges. You’re probably familiar with this exercise. To do it, you lie down on a mat on your back and lift your hips into the air while your feet are planted firmly on the floor.
Unfortunately, this exercise quickly becomes too easy and you have to apply progressive overload. Try elevating one leg at a time as you hold the inactive leg towards your chest. End each set of glute bridges with an isometric hold or pulses to force your glutes to work harder. Another approach is to place a dumbbell across your middle as you do glute bridges.
A close variation, but a more dynamic movement that targets the glutes, are hip thrusts. As with glute bridges, you can do hip thrusts using a single leg to generate the thrust or add resistance by placing a plate or dumbbell across your middle. According to research carried out by Brett Contreras, a renowned expert on glute training, hip thrusts activate the glute muscles more than squats and deadlifts. Make them part of your glute wake-up routine.
Finally, kettlebell swings, with good form, help wake up sleeping glute muscles. In general, use a heavier kettlebell to maximize glute activation. If you use a lighter kettlebell, you’ll maximize velocity but you won’t activate your glutes as much. Be sure to use a kettlebell that’s heavy BUT allows you to use good form. Start with a lighter kettlebell and increase the load as you master your form. Don’t risk injury just to use a heavier kettlebell.
The Glute Guy. “Hip Thrust & Glute Science”
The Glute Guy. “Kettlebell Swings: Go Heavier for Greater Glute and Hamstring Activation”
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