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The Inertia

Everyone needs stronger and more powerful glutes. Whether you surf, snowboard, ski, mountain bike, rock climb, or *insert any sport, regular glute strengthening will not lead you astray.

Most people sit on their ass for a big portion of the day and when they do move, they don’t move well. Humans tend to be quad-dominant and glute weakness can lead to lower back and knee pain as a result. On the flip side of the coin, much of our athletic potential (not to mention aesthetic potential) can be realized with well-functioning, strong, and powerful glutes.

Here are a few tips and techniques on glute training that I wish someone had taught me. These principles are based on simple physics and have been realized through continual learning and practice in the field. If you are someone who fails to “feel” their glutes when attempting to target them through strengthening exercises, or if you are someone who tends to feel most lower body exercises in your lower back, this post will be beneficial for you.

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In our bodies:

-Bones act as lever arms.
-Joints act as pivots, or fulcrums.
-Muscles provide the effort forces to move loads.
-Load forces are often weights or the weights of the body itself acting against gravity.
-Torque is a turning effect or leverage. Forces acting on levers have different effects, depending on how heavy they are and also how far away they are from the pivot. Force (Nm or Ncm) = force (N) X perpendicular distance to the pivot (m or cm).

Takeaways from the above video:

1. Hip hinge, keep your spine neutral and keep your spine as stiff as a board. This basically means, make your hip joint the pivot/fulcrum rather than your lower spine. If you allow your spine to flex and extend while performing glute exercises, the fulcrum is no longer your hips, which means the muscles you are using to move the load are no longer the glutes. You must keep your spine stiff to act as a lever arm, otherwise, it becomes a fulcrum, which will recruit your back muscles.

2. Pay attention to the angle of your knee joint. A knee angle that is positioned at approximately 90 degrees will train your glutes the most effectively. This is true for exercises such as hip/glute bridges, hip thrusts, stepping and squatting. A knee angle greater than 90 degrees will favor hamstring recruitment and a knee angle less than 90 degrees will favor quadriceps recruitment. Keep in mind that, in combination with your knee position, you are keeping your spine neutral and hinging from your hips.

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3. Hip extension is not as impressive of a movement range as you think. If you are feeling hip extension exercises as muscle strain or pain in your lower back, you are likely cheating your hip extension by extending through your lower back. We have approximately 10-15 degrees of hip extension when the spine is in a neutral position. We have an even less impressive amount of visual hip extension when the lower spine is in a flat position, or when the hips are positioned in posterior tilt. This is true for the hip bridge exercise with feet elevated on a chair, so forget about how high your hips are at the top of the lift, it is more important to keep the hips as the fulcrum by posteriorly rotating the hips and “locking” the lower spine from moving.

Editor’s Note: Read more from Exercise Physiologist and Strength & Conditioning Coach Michelle Drielsma here or learn more about her online coaching here

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