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Better Exercises for Stronger Glutes and Core


Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Creator of DVRT Restoration, Shoulder, & Pelvic Control Course)

Seeing people in pain is one of the toughest things to deal with as a therapist. You see how much pain can impact people’s lives and relationships. When people would reach me for physical therapy, I took it very seriously. They were often scared, frustrated, and feeling rather hopeless. Most people find surgery, injury, pain, all very scary and they should. It changes you and it is my job to help people learn they can get better if they become more aware of their bodies. DVRT is full of “connecting” the body ideas because that is the FASTEST way to getting people moving and performing better. When it comes to determining what to connect in the body you can’t go wrong with starting at the glutes and core.

We discuss the concepts of functional fitness that focus upon the glutes and core because this is your foundation for your body to move. If you can’t connect your glutes and core you will find more issues in the shoulders, knees, and even low backs. So, you could see that if we could help people learn how to use their glutes and core together, they would find so many other fitness and health goals improve so quickly. I know this to be true because it is something I need to focus on constantly myself. After injuring my low back when I started off as a therapist (transferring a patient went very wrong!) my life was really hit hard with injury and constant pain.

Even being a therapist, I found myself feeling like a patient. Knowing how frustrating pain can make life. It wasn’t till Josh really taught me these same concepts did my life go from basically waking up in tears from pain, to being able to workout pain free and be a model for my patients. You know then we aren’t discussing the glutes and core because it is just a popular topic, but because it IS that important!

No more neutral spine

One of the ideas that was so frustrating to try to teach patients was that of neutral spine. Basically I didn’t want their pelvis too far forward or back, while that made sense to me, rarely did they have any idea of how to achieve that position. To be honest, I know there is no perfect “neutral” spine, the goal was to build pelvic awareness as so many issues stemmed from people having no ability to control their pelvis, especially when they moved. I tried all sorts of strategies to teach this idea. There were bands, I used super specific verbal cues, I even physically touched their body in what I thought was the perfect spot for them to understand what I wanted. Even using these methods I rarely got people into the pelvic position I wanted to achieve.

It wasn’t till I learned that neutral spine is really about connecting the glutes and core did I see how much simpler and more effective I could make my coaching. Instead of giving cues about using the glutes and core my patients didn’t understand, I began teaching them how to use their body more effectively to accomplish these goals.

Most would never see the pullover bridge as a strong exercise for the glutes, but what is happening is by pulling apart the handles of the Ultimate Sandbag and keeping that tension during the bridge we get a lot MORE out of your standard bridge. By bringing the weight into the pullover position we connect the lats, core, and glutes in the same chain they perform in life. Connection is basically motor control which has been shown to be more essential in injury resiliency than strength alone. When we bring the USB into the pullover position we also create a lever arm on the lower body, so while it may not be obvious, we are actually putting more load into the glutes because they must help resist extension and that forces us to press our feet more into the ground.

glutes and core

Connect as we move

Hip bridging can become overrated in the overall scheme of training. Trust me, we want to teach hip bridging correctly and we have many progressions to keep that glute and core connection challenged. However, we want to see this also performed in more complex environments like when we move. You will see in the next 3 DVRT drills that we have that combination. Stepping patterns like step-ups and lunges dynamic challenge our ability to resist and produce force at the same time. This means actually training the glutes and core as they are designed to function in life!

However, we don’t just challenge people, we have to possess strategies to teach them the concepts we want them to learn. In these 3 DVRT moves, you will see I always focus on the feet and the hands. It is really cuing the use of the feet and hands in how we maintain connections of the glutes and core. Force enters our body from our extremities, so they are the first line in creating success or setting us up for failure. Wait! In the first drill you see my doing a front loaded step-ups. There are no hands involved there, what gives?! Even though I am not gripping with my hands, I am PULLING the weight apart with my forearms getting that lat and core connection from up top. I love being barefoot because my feet “grab” for the ground, especially when I move to these more unstable environments. Getting that connection of my glutes and core from the ground up.

When you watch our DVRT movements, don’t just watch us lifting a weight. Think about how we are using the weight as a tool to teach better movement and connection. If you can see how we use the Ultimate Sandbag as a teaching tool, not just a stressor, you will start to see why DVRT is so unique from other functional fitness programs!

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