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Your Glutes Forgot To Work?!

Ultimate Sandbag fitness equipment

I like to use talking about glutes as a way to help people understand that even a lot of functional training programs aren’t actually about functional training. People mean well when they want to target the glutes, they want to help people look better, be more powerful, and yes, help low back issues. However, we make the BIG mistake of thinking that the idea of gluteal amnesia means that our glutes just decided one day not to work. That isn’t what happened!

The concept of gluteal amnesia was coined by spine expert, Dr. Stuart McGill. As Dr. McGill explains, “Rather deficits in motion and motor patterns have been documented as being more critical and thus should be targets for therapeutic exercise. For example, people with troubled backs use their backs more. Generally, they walk, sit, stand and lift using mechanics that increase back loads. Many of them have stronger backs but are less endurable than matched asymptomatic controls. They tend to have more motion in their backs and less motion and load in their hips. A common aberrant motor pattern is known as “gluteal amnesia” which may be both a common consequence of back troubles and probably a cause of them as well.”

glutes

Patterns? Wait? What?!!! The whole quote Dr. McGill never said that ones glutes were actually weak but just didn’t fire at the right time. I know if you are feeling like your head is spinning, don’t feel bad. In the 90’s I (well, the whole industry for that matter) made the SAME mistake with the transverse abdominis (TVA). Research out of Australia showed people with low back issues often had later timing of their TVA and because most of us were in some way or another still stuck in a bodybuilding mentality, we took that as we needed to strengthen the TVA. Sad fact was the research had NOTHING to do with the strength of the TVA, sound familiar.

So, I’ve made this mistake before which is why I was a bit more aware of repeating it. What does this mean though? Well, have you ever done a hip bridge (sorry I hate the name hip thrust as it was hip bridge way before) and had your hamstrings cramp? That is typically a sign that you have a patterning issue in the posterior chain (yes, you could have positional issues in the set-up, but assuming you are in the correct position).

How can we start training the glutes the RIGHT way to teach them to work at the right time with the rest of the body AND get stronger? Physical therapist, Jessica Bento gives some great options with these DVRT hip bridge progressions. These are in order of hardest to most foundational. You will see the first option how she is actively squeezing a pilates ring to help engage more of the overall core which also tends to have issues along with the gluteal amnesia. At the same time she is giving some rotation to the Ultimate Sandbag and actively pulling it apart to tie in the lats, core, and diagonal patterns that so naturally make up our movement.

Then it may surprise you to hear, but side plank progressions are another great option for the glutes. While most fall into the trap of doing side laying clams and so forth, the truth is that glute medius works more to resist lateral motion than create it. In fact, it works with the large chain of lateral muscles to keep us walking, running, climbing, straight while not falling over. With the following progressions Ben Beeler shows we get the bottom hip to work with the lateral chain and this builds the glutes while we can progressively integrate the top hip as well. Using the Ultimate Sandbag in our row or ISO (isometric) pull gives us integration of the lats and core which is what we want before we use kettlebells and band work.

We can continue to use these concepts to train our glutes to work correctly and get stronger as we progress to higher level movements. A lot of times once we throw in some of these “correctives” (I put correctives in quotations because these are definitely strength exercises as well), people go right into drills that can cause issues or don’t reflect these ideas continuing.

Jessica gives just a snippet of movements that encompass a MUCH bigger world of training the glutes better. We have SO many ways in which we can improve how we look, but also how we feel and move if we take the time to understand the body.

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