Strengthen Your Glutes the HealthOut Way

This Month, HealthOut is focusing on your glutes or buttocks…well, not YOUR glutes per se, but the glutes as a general body part.  Whether you care more about how you look or how your body functions, it doesn’t matter when it comes to the gluteal muscles, you get both!  So read on, and learn how and why you should strengthen and tone the oh-so important backside of your body.

If you want to skip the talk - head to the previous post for the video version of this message! 

Strengthen Your Gluts – the Entourage Effect

In the past month, I have heard 2 doctors mention something called the entourage effect – it is often used to talk about herbs like marijuana, in which there is an activate constituent that has a drug like effect, but also an entourage of other plant chemicals that are also present in the herb, that have synergistic effects that are often difficult to measure and appreciate. 

There is an entourage effect when training the Gluteal muscles of the body, and I would argue that it is easily appreciated.  Look at any track and field star, and you will appreciate the ripples of the many muscles that comprise the hip region.  Yes, the Glute Max muscle is the primary muscle that people talk about when training their “Glutes” but it is important to appreciate that there are many more muscles in the hip region.  The hip rotators and hip abductors in particular are essential stabilizers of the hip, pelvis, lower back, and lower extremity and when they are weak the glutes have a shallow, one dimensional look.  Just look at any athlete who only does squats for their leg training vs. the athlete who does step ups, lunges or even better, something even more complicated like skating. 

Here are some tips if you want to train your Glutes effectively:

·      Strengthen your lower abs first – if you don’t know how to use your lower abs, you will always have to choose strange exercises like the Bulgarian split squat or lift weights that are too heavy for you in order to trick your body into using the hips more. 

·      Learning to isolate your gluts on their own can be helpful for people that have a hard time mentally connecting to them.   Also learning to fully flex and extend the hip without moving in the spine will help you focus your efforts better. 

·      Split Squats are a great starting point to learn how to have proper form before progressing to single leg activities.

·      To get the entourage effect

o   Choose single leg strengthening activities like step ups, reverse lunges, and single leg deadlifts.   Simply balancing on one leg utilizes the muscles on the side of your hip – and they have to work overtime if you do this while holding weight. 

o   Use a band around the knees, ball between the thighs, wide stance exercises, sliders, cables around the ankles, and other ways to involve multiple hip muscles in your squats, lunges, etc.

·      Gluteus Maximus is a powerful, fast twitch muscle, so activities that require forceful acceleration such as running, jumping and stepping up against heavy resistance are preferred to cycling and swimming.

Your body will thank you

Most exercise professionals will agree that hip strength and stability is essential for decreasing the amount of stress placed on your knees and back during physical activity.   All you need to do is watch someone squat down using their hips and gluts more, and visually appreciate how the knees and back don’t bend as much…less bending means less mechanical wear!  Not only that, but as your gluts become more coordinated, more flexible, and stronger, you will likely enjoy physical activities even more and experience more stability and balance during everything you do. 

“I only care about how I look” – Really?

Firstly, if you care more about looks than function, don’t be too hard on yourself, there are a few reasons why focusing on improving your looks through better fitness can sometimes be a good thing:

·      Improving your health is a pretty great side effect of trying to look good!

·      Once you get started, you may discover unforeseen benefits that you never anticipated, such as improvements in sleep or moods.

·      I think that caring about your health and caring about how you look are not as different as some people claim – nothing is more attractive than a person who is in a good state of health and is exhibiting a balanced sense of pride in one’s self.  Think about why you really care about your looks, I bet you there is a healthy reason in there somewhere!

On the flipside, how you look can be a poor motivator because it is often highly subjective and might fluctuate too much over time.  Individuals will often feel great about how they look on one day, and then feel terrible the next, when in actuality their appearance never really changed.  Not only is this psychologically exhausting, but great health requires that you make consistent behaviours over the long term.  You need other health orientated motivators such as “I care about preventing illness” or “I want to maintain my current sporting activities”, in order to stay consistent as well as perhaps prevent an obsessive mindset in which vanity consumes your thoughts or your improvements are proving ‘never enough’. 

Thanks for reading everyone.  If you have any topics you want me to write about, email me your request!

See you at HealthOut!

Dr. Ryan Oughtred, ND

HealthOut is a Downtown Vancouver Gym that offers group fitness training in a thoughtful and prescribed way....so that you can be more awesome!