Guys, I have a confession.
I’m booty obsessed.
I’m always looking for ways to build dat ass. It’s not just because I’m Brazilian but because strong, powerful butts can truly transform how we move and perform. Unfortunately, our sedentary lifestyle has created more “dead ass” than bootylicious backsides. Yet, I’m determined to Make America Booty-ful Again.
Why train the glutes?
Um, because they look better and are fun to grab?
Ok, besides that.
Training the glutes is imperative to good movement, athleticism, and general health. The glutes are the largest muscle groups in the body and play a huge role in hip extension and flexion, explosiveness, rotation, and generally anything that involves, ya know…movement.
The problem is we’ve been fed stupid infomercials from Brazilian butt “experts” or generic advice from strength coaches that tell us squats are all we need to get a nicer, rounder, stronger butt. I love squats but we can’t train our glutes with one exercise alone. I wrote about another powerful booty building exercise in THIS post if you want to add something to your exercise arsenal.
To understand glute training outside of just these two basic exercises, however, let’s look at the anatomy of the bootay (yes! SCIENCE!)
The glutes are made up of three muscles. The gluteus maximus is largely responsible for hip extension. The gluteus minimus helps move the leg away from the midline of the body (abduction) and aids with inward rotation of the thigh at the hip. When it’s playing nice with the gluteus medius, these muscles stabilize the hip and pelvis when the opposite leg is doing things like Sparta kicking someone to their death.
When we skip glute training altogether, or simply focus on one or two movements like the squat and lunge, we really miss out on strengthening all three muscles effectively. This is what translates into healthy hips and a more bodacious bod!
An exercise like the hip thrust (again, read this post HERE to find out more) has shown to have higher muscle activation in the upper and lower gluteus maximus and biceps femoris than the barbell squat (You can read that study from Bret Contreras HERE). The squat, however, shows a much higher degree of activation of the quads than the hip thrust, and while the glutes and hamstrings get some action in the squat, again, the research shows much higher activity in the hip thrust for those muscles.
However, this only addresses two exercises: The barbell squat and the barbell hip thrust. In that sense we’re working a lot of muscles but not necessarily targeting all the muscles around the hip. This is why we have to train that backside with a variety of movements, in a variety of angles and with a variety of tools. Doing just bodyweight squats, shoulder bridges and barre classes ain’t gonna cut it.[bctt tweet=”We have to train the backside with a variety of movements, in a variety of angles & tools. ” username=”lovelifefit”]
So back to the ‘WHY’ of glute training. This is why we do it (cue Montell Jordan classic):
Strong glutes = greater power. It’s where force is generated and transferred for movements like sprinting, jumping, acceleration, deceleration, climbing, rotation, and making people jealous at what an athletic beast you are. Even if you’re as competitive as a Golden Retriever puppy, glute training will go a long way in protecting other body parts from picking up the slack in activities such as running, golfing or walking uphill. If performance matters to you, and it should because we are all athletic to some degree, glute training will make you better at the technical stuff required to perform on the court, field, weight room or your company’s beach volleyball team.[bctt tweet=”Strong glutes equal greater power” username=”lovelifefit”]
To piggy pack on my last point, strong glutes prevent injury because other muscle groups don’t have to work overtime to make up for your weak posterior chain. Think about a movement like squatting. If someone’s quads are big and strong but the glutes and hamstrings are as weak as a noodle, then the quads and back will pick up the slack at the bottom of a very heavy squat. The back can only take so much heavy load before it implodes or negatively affects performance and technique. If you can back up technique and mechanics and avoid injury why the hell wouldn’t you train your glutes? This Wall Street Journal article sums this up nicely.
Improve hip function
Not to sound like an AARP brochure but what will you do when you fall and can’t get back up?
Healthy hips are important for all of us no matter our age. Our ability to properly flex and extend the hip is crucial to living a pain-free existence. This includes basic walking, running, and yes, getting up after you’ve fallen down. As modern day, spoiled civilians, we live in the saggital plane (back and forth movement), and in thoracic flexion most of the time. As a result, we’ve grown increasingly weak and dysfunctional in other planes of motion and our mechanics are so out of sorts. Obviously, this has a negative effect on our athleticism and overall performance. You want to join a kickball league with your co-workers but haven’t shuffled side to side since high school basketball practice? Dude, you’re in for a rude awakening when to try to steal 3rd base. Healthy hips = happy knees = happy life = no AARP (NOTE: I have no idea what AARP actually does. They sent me a brochure on my 30th birthday and I’ve had it out for them ever since).
Better posture and alignment
Without going off the deep end about the importance of posture, it behooves us all to do what we can to improve it. Pilates is the best tool I’ve found to improve posture. I’m bias of course because I am a Pilates instructor but I didn’t drink the kool-aid until I saw results and how it drastically improved my lifting. Without the ability to turn “on” the glutes effectively, we leave a lot of power on the table that could otherwise drastically improve our lifts or sport of choice. Furthermore, a weak butt forces the opposing muscle groups to take over, thereby putting our pelvis out of alignment. Our muscles work in a chain – if one thing is off then everything else gets screwy. I’m simplifying here but you get the idea. If we can improve alignment and posture, we have a higher chance of success to living an injury-free life and continue to get strong.
Now that we’ve covered the WHY behind glute training, we can dive into the HOW. Stay tuned for part 2 next week!