Bum, butt, buns, bottom. There are many ways to describe one's beautiful derrière. But few actually understand the importance of this often neglected muscle group. Indeed, the glutes is one of the largest and strongest in the whole of the human body. However, for the majority of the population, they are not working properly. In fact, for most people, they are completely switched off. Here is a quick guide to getting a fully functioning beautiful bottom.
Are yours working?
As the population has become increasingly sedentary, workers spend most of their time sat down: at home, on public transport, at work etc. Over the years of being sat on their arses (literally), these said arses have stopped doing what they should. Indeed, your brain has most likely forgotten they existed, and has lost its ability to use them properly. How to know if yours are? Like on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Lift your hips off the ground fifteen times and check which muscles are engaging: lower back, hamstrings or glutes? A strong set of glutes will provide most of the strength for the hip extensions, however a weak pair will need the assistance of the lower back and/or the hamstrings.
Why are the glutes so important?
Now, the glutes have many wonderful uses: they are supposed, amongst many things, to provide most of the power when we move around, are meant to help absorb the impact our bodies take when they hit the ground, and are designed to stabilise and protect the spine during movement.
If they are not fully functional, your body will automatically compensate for the lack of strength of the glutes by engaging other muscles: lower back, hamstrings, or even quads and hips. Over time, this will lead to poor movement, tight muscles and body imbalances. Many of my clients when they first come to see me are overusing their lower back muscles to assist in squatting or lunging, instead of their legs. Couple that with a weak core from lack of exercise and too much sitting around, and most people's lower back are an accident waiting to happen.
Simultaneously, while running, jumping, even climbing stairs and walking, our glutes assist the thigh muscles to absorb any impact. With poor glutes however, those said muscles take on far too much work, and over time become tighter and tighter. This is made even worse by sitting down for long periods. Indeed, it takes 15 minutes for a muscle to start to shorten, so you can only imagine how tight your hips and thigh muscles get, day after day. And over time, this combination can lead to weakness or pain in the knees.
Finally, weak bum muscles provide little support and protection for your spine. Indeed, as your glutes do not fire optimally, all the smaller muscles up and down the spine must struggle to protect the lower back, in turn making them overworked, tight and therefore prone to weaknesses. In exercises such as the plank or bent over row, in which the spine must resist the force of gravity, the glutes assist the inner core muscles in stabilising the spinal column and protecting the low back. However a set of weak buns means that once again the low back will take most of the load.
What can I do to strengthen my glutes?
Simple: remind your body to use them. You are in control of your body; you have the ability to tell it which muscle to fire first. If your glutes are weak, you will need to re-train your body to automatically engage the glutes instead of the hamstrings or the lower back. So whenever you exercise, whenever you walk, climb steps, squat or lunge, make sure that you compensate for the years of inactivity by squeezing your glutes, and ensuring that they provide most of the power. Squeeze your glutes at every opportunity, when standing, when moving, and even while sitting. The more you activate them, the better connection they will develop with your brain, and therefore your nervous system. At first, you may need to physically touch them to check that you are engaging them properly. Over time however you will easily be able to use them, eventually allowing them to fire automatically without having to think about it.
So, if you have any form of back pain, knee pain, or you sit down for many hours at a time, it is probably a good idea to start thinking about ways of strengthening your bum. Not only will this give it a toned, more shapely form, but it will also protect your body from a number of aches and pains, and allow you to move more efficiently and safely. So, ladies and gentlemen, keep calm and squeeze your glutes.