There’s no doubting that strength around the back and the outside of the hip is important for both performance and preventing injury, but there’s some HUGE mistakes the industry has been making for many years that are stunting your progress and actually leading you towards injury…
This article is a great example of the standard industry offerings when it comes to strengthening glutes. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with any of the exercises – except the purpose they were intended for!
The article is also a great example of how the industry is completely missing the point when it comes to developing glute strength and preventing injury, and there’s three glaring issues with the advice (this is standard industry advice remember – not that the people writing the article themselves are giving bad advice):
Mistake #1: Feel the burn
It’s a very real fact that if you were to perform the donkey kicks, clams and bridges recommended in the article, you’d feel your glutes burning – and while making a muscle feel tired is usually a good way to help it get stronger, just because it DOES get tired, doesn’t mean that it WILL get stronger. If the muscle is being pulled into a sustained lengthened position (like the glutes usually are) by short, tight muscles elsewhere in the body, then its function is being restricted creating an illusion of being “weak”. Exercising muscles from this lengthened state requires an HUGE amount of extra effort and THAT’S why you’ll feel the burn.
Creating the burn of fatigue for these lengthened muscles simply serves to restrict their function further as they soon lose the ability to provide the stability the joint requires and the result, is injury.
Mistake #2: Squeeze your glutes
Conscious activation of a muscle (or “squeezing”, “bracing” or “engaging”) is a Western fitness concept that actually causes great harm to bodies. Bodies don’t actually function by squeezing some muscles while others do work, because it prevents the “squeezed” muscle from contributing to that work. ALL the muscles in your body contribute to every single movement you make, whether that’s lengthening/shortening to allow a joint to bend, or simply helping to control the movement of that joint, and it’s not just ONE joint that joins in movement.
Even in the simple action of turning your head, your weight will shift to the opposite foot and you’ll press that foot into the floor as you turn your head – give it a go!
Every time we ask the body to “engage”, or “brace” or “squeeze” a muscle, we’re actually teaching the brain a whole new, foreign and LESS effective movement pattern, which contributes to the pain and injuries we suffer over time.
Mistake #3: Laser focused
In our enthusiasm to solve what we see as being the problem of the glutes being “weak”, we focus in on them and ignore what else we’re actually asking the body to do during these strengthening exercises.
During the donkey kick, the fire hydrant, the band walks and many other glute strengthening exercises, we are on all fours (quadruped position). In this position, our adductors, hip flexors and abdominals are all taking much of the strain of the simple action of moving the leg – and the more resistance we add, the more strain these other muscles are taking – which in itself isn’t problem, since spreading the strain of an activity is usually a good thing.
But when we’re placing that strain/load on the exact muscles that are too short and causing the weak glutes in the first place, the action of strengthening the glutes becomes a double whammy waste of time (1. because the glutes are too long to function properly, not actually weak, and 2. because the little amount of strength you might gain from the exercise is counteracted by an equal amount of strengthening in the short, tight muscles of the hips & abdominals).
If we want to see SIGNIFICANT results, far more quickly than this industry standard fare offers, we need to look at the bigger picture.
We need to look at the reasons WHY some muscles are behaving weak – not just label them as weak and dive in with strengthening moves.
We need to look at how to NATURALLY activate the muscles we want, while keeping the body’s natural activation patterns and restoring the optimum LENGTH balance of the muscles.
And we need to do this in the context of what the WHOLE body is doing, not just one or two muscles.
My SUPER SIMPLE Hip Flexors 5 Ways Video shows you the easiest way I know to activate your glutes AND lengthen your hip flexors without strain or “burn” – and I’d like to offer it to you for FREE!
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