What it means: I had a Pilates teacher that said “They don’t call them ‘bums’ for nothing!” And she was right. We sit on our glutes all day. They are really rather lazy muscles. When we go to move our leg, it much easier to move it from our hip flexors than from our glutes. When we thinking about lifting up our posture, we think about our abs and the muscles in our backs. But rarely do we think about our glutes. However, if you are able to learn to recruit these muscles to support your core and/or to power your legs, you will have an entirely different workout!
How to do it: The glutes are part of our postural muscles, and a part that we frequently forget about. Remember, your spine sits into your pelvis, and your pelvis is supported by your glutes. So without strong, engaged muscles there, you are not supporting your spine, or those other muscles you’re working on (ie abs and back)! Glutes are your secret weapon to deep core exercise!
To activate your glutes, think about them wrapping around your legs. You should feel like the tops of your thighs are moving to the side, the side to the back, the backs to the insides, etc. That way, your muscles are engaged, but you haven’t displaced your pelvis (ie tucking), which then displaces your spine.
I give my clients the image of your bottom making a heart. The tops of your butt cheeks are the round parts, and the point comes together under you. I like this “coming together” image better than “clenching your butt cheeks” or “pinching your bottom”, because those images often result in a displaced pelvis, making it impossible to engage your abdominals and lower back muscles.
When to do it: Anytime you think about your posture- at the barre, in your Pilates class, while sitting at your desk. Granted, it is much more difficult to engage your glutes while you are sitting on them, but it can be done!
Why do it: Learning to engage your glutes makes your leg work more efficient and more powerful. Think of how much more muscle recruitment you have when you use your glutes and your legs, rather than just your thighs!
Additionally, when we move our legs from our glutes, our hip flexors are able to release. On most people, the hip flexors are very tight. Our sedentary culture simply exacerbates the problem. Learning to use your glutes engages the back of the leg rather than the front. I often remind my students that when they talk to me about wanting to tone their thighs, they pretty much never mean the tops of their thighs. They’re talking about the inner thighs and the backs of their thighs. When the glutes are working in the wrapped manner described above, the inner thighs and the back of our thighs are the leg muscles engaged.
And of course like any proper muscle recruitment, your injury potential decreases.
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