My current rant....strengthen your bum!
I have been a trainer for over thirteen years, and the majority of people I meet do not have strong glutes (bum muscles). Honestly, weak glutes are to be expected. We all sit too much; sitting tightens the hip flexors (front of the body) and doesn't require the bum to work. The result is weak and neurologically unresponsive glutes. To make matters worse, even when doing exercises that should use the bum — such as running or squats — most of us don't recruit our bum muscles correctly.
A weak bum can contribute to lower back, hip, knee, and ankle pain — not to mention decreased endurance, strength, and power and, let's face it, a less-than-ideal aesthetic.
Let's use running as an example. If you overuse and extend through your lower back when you run (versus generating hip extension through your glutes), you risk developing overuse injuries. If the glutes are not firing properly, the body has to find a compensation pattern. Often extension ends up occurring through the lower back instead of the hip. This compensation pattern can contribute to degenerative changes, muscle pain, and an inefficient gait.
The main take-away: Everyone needs to strengthen their bum!!
To get the glutes to fire, try these exercises.
Bridges: Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet placed hip-distance apart on the ground. Engage your bum muscles to lift your hips off of the ground. Try not to lift with your hamstrings (back of legs) or lower back. Repeat 10 times.
Side leg lifts: Lie on your right side. Lift your left leg up to hip height. Imagine your leg weighs 100 pounds and that you have to use your bum muscles (the ones located just behind the side seam of your pants) to lift the leg up. Lower and repeat 10 times, then switch sides.
Modified straight-leg deadlifts: Stand with your feet parallel and hip-distance apart. Hold dumbbells in front of your thighs. Bend your knees slightly. Keeping your knee angle constant, hinge at your hips to bring the weight toward the floor. Lower the weight as far as you can while maintaining a neutral spine — don't let your back round. Use your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back to return to your starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Squat: Start standing with your feet hip-distance apart. Bend at your hips, knees, and ankles so that you feel like you are sitting backwards into a chair. Keep your back straight and chest out. Use your core and bum to resist gravity — don't just plonk down toward the floor. Then, use your bum and core to press your feet into the ground to push your body back to standing. Feel like you are using your bum to push the floor down into the basement. Repeat 10 to 15 times.
Kettlebell swing: Start by standing, feet wider than shoulder-width apart, holding the handle of the kettlebell with both hands. Use your hips to generate force so that the kettlebell swings in front of you up to about eye height. Let the bell swing back down between your legs and repeat 10 to 12 times. Keep your arms straight and core engaged as you swing.
One final tip: Make sure you stretch your hip flexors. If they are tight they can inhibit your bum muscles from working. Stand in a lunge position with your left leg back. Bend your back knee and tuck your pelvis so your hip bones come toward your ribs. Reach the left arm up toward the ceiling. Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.