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Over 80 percent of all Americans suffer low back, hip, or knee pain. Many times, this pain is caused by “glueteal amnesia”, a condition in which the gluteus maximum does not activate normally. Activating glutes is very important if you are to avoid injury and increase your athletic performance. Doing so can also help tone your posterior. Here are some tips that will help you wake up your backside.
A study performed by Professor Stuart McGill showed participants were able to achieve 100% peak muscle activation when swinging a kettleball weighing 70 pounds. The kettleball swing should be driven by explosive movements coming from your hips and glutes. Allow your upper body to simply swing back and forth, and provide plenty of hip thrusting motion to assist you with activating glutes.
One of the biggest causes of gluteal amnesia is prolonged sitting. Even if you have a desk job, you should make it a point to get up from your chair and walk around several times each day. Never perform a task sitting down that you could do as easily while standing up. During your workday, contract your buttock muscles and hold them for about ten to twenty seconds every hour to help keep them engaged.
Activating glutes can be difficult if your hip flexors are also tight. As such, you should add more hip flexor stretches to your workout routine before and after exercising. You could even use a resistance band to help you lengthen your stretches somewhat. The bridge and one-legged bridge are two very easy exercises for the hip flexors.
Using a step during your cardio workout causes the muscles in your lower body, particularly your glutes, to work harder. The same thing happens when you place a resistance band around your feet or wear ankle weights. If you have difficulty incorporating these things into your cardio, you can simply wear ankle weights around the house or yard while performing chores.
As mentioned above, one way of activating your glutes is to regularly contract and hold them several times each day. While sitting or standing, contract and hold your glutes for 20 seconds, and repeat ten to 15 times. You should also make a conscious effort to contract your glutes when performing exercises such as lunges or leg lifts.
Squats are ideal for activating your glutes, provided you perform them correctly. The best way to do so is to perform deep squats. You can do this using a barbell over the back of your shoulders, having your feet just a little wider than shoulder width apart, with toes pointing slightly outwards. Sit back with the hips (rather than down), while keep your abs tight and chest/head up. Rather than dropping so your thighs are parallel to the floor, you want to drop a little further. Make sure to power up through the heels on the way up while squeezing your quads and glutes. Start with a light weight until you are comfortable with your form and technique.
Activating glutes can provide you with greater power for running, jumping, and sprinting, but the biggest benefit is that a tight bum will simply help you feel good about yourself.