In the last post, we went over some glute anatomy. So, today we’ll cover two essential basic exercises you need to improve on before you can begin a more intense glute workout program with weights and loads of variations.
I’ll also give you some great stretches and myofascial release techniques you can implement to loosen tight areas pre and post workout.
There are a plethora of leg exercises, but you have to get your basic squat and lunges right first. Please don’t put unnecessary pressure on your back, knees, or bad posture or pain may follow. Ouch!
- SQUAT BETTER:
Step 1: Think about sitting! The word “squat” often throws off a lot of people. It makes it sound like a complicated movement for many people, when in reality it’s just sitting. The stronger you become on squatting in the gym, the more it will translate into your everyday life and you will be much less prone to injury.
Step 2: Hinge from the hips and lead with the tailbone before you bend the knees. Many people bend the knees and bring them forward to begin the movement and this places significant pressure on them and away from the glutes.
Step 3: If you are having a hard time, open up the hips and widen your stance. This will allow for a more stable base.
Step 4: Use a bench to guide you. A squat somehow becomes much more doable with the depth of a bench behind you. Aim to just graze or tap the bench every time so that you are getting the most out of the exercise. Once you get that right, and you have good knees, you can begin to drop even lower – “ass to grass” as they say.
Watch this video for more pointers: Squat Better
- LUNGE BETTER:
Like squatting, lunging is something we also do every day. Walking up stairs, stepping forward to grab your child, etc.
Lunging is problematic for a lot of people. It can also cause a lot of pain in the knees if it is done incorrectly.
A great analogy that I like to use with my clients, is to think of your body dropping down like an elevator during a lunge, rather than an escalator, which would bring your body forward.
The tendency for many people is to either have a very short or incredibly wide stance with the back leg, both of which puts a lot of strain on the hips. Your stance should be wide enough that your back leg bends with your knee going close to the ground, but not so far back that you lose your balance.
Because of the angle of the hip, forward lunges are a lot more difficult or painful for people with knee problems. If knees are an issue for you, stick to reverse lunges and hopefully with some mobility work of stretching and myofacial release you can begin to incorporate a forward lunge.
Watch this video for more pointers: Lunge Better
WARM UP AND RELEASE:
It’s common to see people walking or jogging on the treadmill to warm up for their leg workout. While this does warm up the body and get the blood flowing, it doesn’t do much for getting the body ready to lunge and squat. So make sure that you take the time to mobilize tight areas.
If either squatting or lunging are an issue for you, even with good guidance, it is likely that you have issues with hip mobility which is not allowing you to get the most out of these exercises or causing pain. You may find yourself collapsing to one side, or leaning your torso forward without even wanting to!
Tight hips are very common, since most of us spend an incredible amount of time sitting daily. Releasing tightness will take patience and consistency, but the effects of releasing tight areas can often be immediately effective.
After I have warmed up my body, I follow a mobility and stretch routine to get my body ready to move – this will help release tightness and increase range of motion to have a better workout.
These are some of my favourite stretches:
Standing Hamstring mobility – Release tight hamstrings – VIDEO
These stretches are also great to do post workout. Post workout, be sure to hold these for 3-5 min (yin yoga style), to be able to get deep into the fascia, or connective tissue. Stretching muscle is ok, but will never have the same benefits as releasing fascia.
MYOFASCIAL RELEASE WITH A LACROSSE BALL
Another great way to release fascia is to use a lacrosse ball, because it allows for a much deeper release. These are some of the most common tight areas that you can release using a lacrosse ball. Be sure to go in this order if doing all the stretches in a row.
TFL (Tensor Fascia Lata) Release1
- Direct influence on the knee joint and effects glute activation
HOW TO: Lying on our side, position the lacrosse ball / tennis ball just below the hip bone – Imagine putting your hand in your jeans pocket. Make sure to relax your body on the ground and extend your bottom arm to support your head.
RECTUS FEMORIS – THIGH
- Release can offer a significant amount of relief of knee and low back pain
HOW TO: Begin using a lacrosse ball and then moving to a dense bar. It is ideal to release in one straight line. Begin just below hip bone to above the knee.
- Becomes overactive when gluteus maximus are not functioning properly
HOW TO: Begin lying on your side, with feet together. Using a lacrosse ball, place it just inferior of the top surface of ilium and just lateral of the centerline.
Piriformis Release1 –
- When gluteus maximus is not functioning properly, the piriformis will become dysfunctional and can lead to feet sticking out
HOW TO: Place foam roller on the outer portions of the glutes. From there move about 4 inches laterally and medially. Make sure to put the leg up on the side that is being stretched so that the piriformis is being exposed while you apply pressure. Use a bit of movement in order to release the area.
QL (Quadratus Lumborum) Release1 –
- Becomes overactive when there is not enough stability in the core, specifically the TVA
- Can lead to the body shifting to one side
HOW TO: Lay on your side and place the lacrosse ball in an angled fashion in the low back area, to be able to hit the lateral border of the lumbar spine. You want to rest your head on a pillow, foam roller or pad and relax the bottom arm.
*If you suffer from low back pain, do not put pressure on this area.
- ILIOTIBIAL BAND (IT Band)
- Responsible for proper knee tracking and directly influences knee pain if femurs are rotated
HOW TO: Position the body sideways. Place the lacrosse ball on the lateral border of the femur. Move down the leg slowly to be able to release in sections.
- Often tight in people who sit for long periods of time, resulting from hip flexor tightness
- Restriction will lead to excessive knee flexion when standing
- Most common restriction is found in the eccentric (downward) phase of a squat
HOW TO: Begin seated in a firm chair and place lacrosse ball under the thigh. Keep knee in flexion so that the ball can settle into the hamstring. Extend the leg once you have felt some release happen in the area.
So get to it! Try these out and see how they help you.
In the next posts, we’ll start to have some fun with some actual glute programs. Don’t worry if you don’t have access to a gym, I will give you some body weight options too:)
Yours in health and fitness,
Co-Founder, Best Body Bootcamp
1 The Power Of Posture. Copyright © 2013 by Naudi Aguilar.