Friday, January 23, 2015

Using Your Butt: Activate Your Glutes

By: Joel Luedke

Your glutes.  It's one of the strongest muscle(s) in your body and is able to generate force used for everyday posture to explosive movements like running, jumping and lifting.  Yet, with all the power and movement that can be generated out of this muscle it is often underutilized due to improper form or lacking the neuromuscular patterns to activate them properly.

While squatting we will see many athletes make their first move when lowering the weight by pushing their knees forward and trying to complete the squat mainly through the strength of their quads.  They still work to get below parallel but in the process are putting massive amounts of force through the knee.  What we try and teach is that their first movement should be to squeeze their butt (causing external rotation at the hips) to lock in as much torque as possible and then have their first movement be pushing their hips back and allow their glutes to engage while pushing their knees out throughout the descending motion.  At the bottom of the squat, squeezing their butt will help move the weight back up and will result in the ability to lift more.  Our goal through this entire movement is to keep the tibia's as close to straight up and down as possible.

How do we know if they are activating their glutes properly?

The Test: Have the athlete perform a standard lying double leg glute bridge and have them hold the contraction at the top.  As they are holding this position ask them to break down where they feel they are working more, glutes vs. hamstrings.  This answer can range from 70/30 to 50/50 to 30/70.

After performing the double leg glute bridge have them perform the same exercise but only with a single leg glute bridge.  Ask again where they feel the most work occurring, glutes vs. hamstrings.

What we are looking for in terms of where they feel the most work is a 70/30 breakdown of feeling it in the glutes vs. the hamstrings.  This ratio is generally accepted to make sure that the athlete is using their glutes to help with hip extension and not relying on their hamstrings to create that motion.  This will result in a greater power production (remember the glutes are one of your strongest muscles) and also a reduction in hamstring injuries by using them as an assistive muscle in hip extension and not the primary muscle.

Exercise for Prehab or Rehab
Hip Poppers: The starting position is performing either a double or single leg bridge with your feet elevated a couple of feet in the air.  You will perform a set of 10 reps using the 70/30 ration (glutes to hamstrings) in a controlled 2 up, 2 down count.  Immediately upon finishing that you will go into 15 quick as possible hip bridges (keeping the ratio for glutes vs. hamstrings) and finally finishing up with a set of 2 up and 4 down contractions for 7 reps.

You can repeat this series as many times as possible.  This is one to fix in order to not allow your athletes to rob themselves of power and also to prevent injury.

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