– Mark McCabe, Millennium Health Club Personal Trainer & Gym Floor Manager
As society shifts more and more towards a sedentary lifestyle with individuals spending more time than ever before working behind a computer or seated in front of a TV screen, the incidence of lower back pain, hip pain, knee pain is becoming ever more prevalent. A major factor contributing to this growing issue can be attributed to poor or weak Glute activation.
So what are the muscles in question? What do they do? Why are they getting weaker?
The major muscles of the Glutes include the Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus and the Piriformis. The primary role of these muscles is Hip extension, Pelvis stabilisation, internal, external rotation and abduction of the legs.
Prolonged periods in a seated position will lead to a tightening of the hip flexors and a lengthening and weakening of the Glute muscles. This is because in the seated position the Hip flexors are shortened and the Glute muscles are placed in a stretch un-activated position. Over time, this will have an impact on Pelvis position. The tight overactive Hip flexors will pull down on the pelvis leading to a forward tilt, which the weaker stretched Glute muscles are unable to counter. This can lead to lower back, hip and knee issues in the individual
So what can be done to help prevent these issues?
Incorporating specific Glute activation exercises into your program along with stretches for the Hip flexors, lower back and hamstrings will go a long way to help improving Glute activation and function. Combine this with limiting your time in the seated position by taking regular breaks to stand up and walk around or even introducing a standing work station and you’re going a long way to addressing this issue.
Some simple Glute activation exercises that require very little space and equipment include:
- Banded lateral crab walks
Wrap a piece of thera-band around your legs, just above the knees. Take a shoulder width stance with a 30 degree angle at the hips. Complete 15 lateral steps to the left maintaining the shoulder width distance between your feet, then 15 lateral steps to the right. That is 1x set. Aim to complete 3-4 sets.
- Single leg hip extension
Lying on your back in the sit-up position, draw your right knee in towards your chest. Pressing down through your left leg, squeeze through your left Glute extending your hip. Complete 10-12 repetitions on your left leg then repeat on your right. Aim to complete 3x sets on each leg.
- Kneeling hip extension
Position yourself on your hands and knees then extend your right leg out behind you with your right foot in contact with the floor. From this position, squeeze your right glute lifting your extended leg off the floor until your right foot reaches hip level. Slowly lower and repeat for 12-15 repetitions. Repeat on your left leg. Aim to complete 3x sets on each leg
- Kneeling side kick
Position yourself on your hands and knees then extend your right leg out to the side of your body with your right foot in contact with the floor. From this position squeeze your right leg lifting your extended leg off the floor until your right foot reaches hip level. Slowly lower and repeat for 12-15 repetitions. Repeat on your left leg. Aim to complete 3x sets on each leg
These exercises should be combined with some simple stretches such as:
- Hip flexor stretch
Kneel with front knee directly over ankle. Lengthen spine keeping the core tight. Squeeze glutes pushing the hips forward until a stretch is felt in the front of the hip. Hold for 20-30 sec before repeating on the opposite side.
- Lower back stretch
Position yourself on your back with your arms extended out to the side of your body, knees flexed and feet flat on the floor. Making sure that your core is activated, slowly slower your knees to the right hand side of your body. Ensure that your shoulders maintain contact with the floor. Hold for 20-30 sec then repeat on the opposite side
- Hamstring stretch
Sit tall with one leg extended out in front of you. Flexing through the hip, bring chest down towards extended knee until a stretch is felt in that hamstring. Hold for 20-30 sec then repeat on the opposite side