As January is a traditional time for goal setting and trying blow out the old cobwebs that have formed over the festive period, I want to delve a little deeper than the initial goal that you may have set and look at the importance of ensuring your house….well in this case, your glutes are in order!
If you’ve set yourself a target, say, to complete a 5k run, half a marathon or maybe you just want to be generally fitter, then it is vital that your body is functioning at its most optimal so that you can perform to the best of your ability.
'Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail!'
So you’ve set the goal that you want to achieve, but how do you ensure that you arrive at your destination in one piece?
Among many…..one thing to consider are the all important glutes!
Why or why I hear you cry does this have anything to do with my training? Well if you bear with me for a moment, I will take you on a short journey that will scratch the surface of these all important glutes (metaphorically people, not physically!).
So let’s tumble down the rabbit hole for one moment………arrgghhhhh!!!!! It may be that you experience pain in your lower back, pain in your knee or even possibly your shoulder, potentially this may stem from an inhibition relating to the glutes. Seems crazy doesn’t it? But when you understand the relationship and the role that they play in stabilisation and movement, you can start to understand how important it is that they fire and work properly.
Location – the attachment sites of the glutes include both the lower limbs, spine and the pelvis. Relatively they are at a sort of gateway between the upper and lower body and therefore help to maintain the correct functional alignment when we walk and move.
Stability – in particularly, some of the fibres of the gluteus maximus actually merge with an important ligament (sacrotuberous ligament) that helps to stabilise the SI Joint. The stability of this joint plays a vital role in how your spinal mechanics perform.
Function/action – functionally, the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius extend and laterally rotate the hip. Sounds impressive doesn’t it?! What this actually means, is that these muscles play a very important part in the gait (walking) cycle. If you then relate this to terms of running or walking, if the force going through your body from the ground up isn’t effective, then this can only result in dysfunction somewhere in the body i.e. your body will compensate – hence why pain can be produced in the knee, lower back etc.
**For the many people that know me, you will know that I always try to instil the belief that even though we experience pain in a specific area of our body, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this is the cause of our pain and that sometimes we need to think of the bigger picture when looking at our pain. This very much relates to my point above. Through specific myofascial slings one part of our anatomy has a direct link to another, there is no singularity when it comes to our tissue, only continuation. The same can be said for the treatment of the underlying problem: 'One man's meat is another man's poison.'
So how do you know if you have ‘weak glutes’? Well there are specific signs and symptoms that can be associated with an inhibition of the glutes, such as a Trendelenburg gait pattern, but the simplest answer is to seek a professional’s expertise through testing.
'So what can you do though to maintain strong, functional glutes?' I hear you cry!
Strength exercises – specific exercises that are tailored to what you need are vital. Some are aimed at grosser movements (squats, lunges etc) and some are more specific to the individual muscle (clams, glute squeezes etc). What you need will differ to the person next to you, however an understanding that you need to build a good base, before you move on to more complex movements is essential.
Stretching and release techniques – inhibitions can occur for a number of reasons. It is possible that another tissue my actually stop your glutes from working through an action known as reciprocal inhibition. This means that if a muscle is overactive it will ‘switch off’ its counterpart. You therefore need to stretch, release and reduce signals to the over powering tissue in order to get the misfiring one working.
Don’t stop – movement in life in essential. A key contribution to pain in our society is that we generally lead sedentary, desk bound lives. Movement is key to combating this. So stretch, go for a walk and keep strengthening those glutes!
Lay face down with your feet shoulder width apart; place your hands on your glutes and contract (squeeze) your right glute for 5 seconds; relax and then contract your left glute for 5 seconds; repeat this 5 times on each side; now simultaneously contract both glutes for 5 seconds, relaxing for 5 seconds in between
What this exercise helps you do is to allow you to feel the muscle working. Something that is vital as you progress to more advanced techniques in your training.
Still falling down that rabbit hole? Don’t worry we all are. The important thing is whether you know you’re falling (I like to call it gracefully gliding) or not and to ensure that you take the correct steps to a more functional you. If you’re unsure of what to do or have any questions then please get in contact with me.