Now, I just about pass myself off as educated but I definitely wouldn't class myself as cultured, so when I was presenting the role of the gluteal muscles at a recent seminar for triathletes and I entitled it 'The Magic Glute' an audience member asked me if I liked Mozart???… I didn't have a clue what he was referring to, but apparently Mozart did a famous piece called 'The Magic Flute' and without knowing it I had created a rather nice play on words, one that I will unashamedly use again in this blog.
So the 'glutes' are your buttock muscles, and they have had a 'bum rush' of publicity and research recently in the sporting and physiotherapy world, with good cause, they have been proven to be vitally important in the function and control of the whole leg, and you don't have to go to far to hear someone say “I've been told by my physio that I have lazy glutes, that's why my leg hurts when I run”
Now I don't want to bore you all with all the research out there, as I know most physios reading this will already know and those that aren't physios don't really want to know the finer details, lets just take it as read that the stronger and more resilient your butt muscles are the better control you will have over your hip, knee, ankle and foot, meaning less chance of overloading and injuring these joints and structures around them when you run, jump, hop, skip, dance or prance around a square pitch, and oval field, a circular track, a straight line, a diagonal line, whether you're kicking a ball, throwing or hitting something with a bat, stick or racquet or even pushing or pulling someone/thing.
So in a nutshell these glutes are vitally important for a lot of sports and for a lot of sports men and women to pay that little extra time and attention too, in particular the one called Glute Med or Gluteus Medius to give it its full name.
This is a nice simple picture of what the glute med is mainly responsible for basically keeping everything in relatively good alignment when one leg comes of the floor, which it does a lot, for example when walking we spend approx 55% of the time on one leg, this goes up to 85% when running …
As you can see on the left when they work as opposed to the right when they don't they stop the opposite hip dropping down, the spine curving over, they stop the knee leaning in and the ankle rolling over when you transfer weight from one leg to the other such as when walking running jumping etc etc…
So demonstrating that we need our glutes to be in tip-top condition to stop all these areas becoming strained and potentially injured.
So how do we do this, well again there is stacks of research and articles on what are the best exercises and which is the best way to activate these butt muscles. I have also found you if you get two physios or coaches or trainers to discuss what are the best exercise you will end up with 1) a very heated discussion and 2) 10,372 different exercises…
So what I intend to do is show you my favorite glute exercises, based on my own personal experience rather than just the research out there on the aforementioned 10,372 options, which believe me I have tried and tested most of them. These three exercises are the ones that work best for me and the ones that gets my butt screaming the most… I also like them as they are simple and easy to do, even if you do feel and look a bit silly doing them.
I also don't think these are more suited to any other sport over another I have and still do use these for my own running, but also for my footballers, tennis players, triathletes etc etc…
So what are they… well I call them my Monty Python walks, as they look like and feel like a sketch straight out of the Ministry of Silly Walks sketch, im showing my age now I think… but you gotta love Monty Python…its a classic, but I digress
The three walks are
1) The Crab
2) The Waltz
3) Pee'd your Pants
Good names eh? So if your still with me I will explain
For starters you will need a glute band… this is a simple piece of theraband or stretchy elastic available from good sports shops or online at places like physioroom.com or physiomed.com (I have no affiliation with either) or ask your friendly neighbourhood physio for a piece next time you see them.
The glute band should be about 6-9 inches when tied and should be slightly taut when you have it around your ankles and are standing with your feet about 3 inches apart.
The Crab Walk
- Stand sideways on with the band around your ankles
- Pull your legs apart wide, keep your toes turned out slightly
- Squat down bending the knees, keeping your back straight and keeping your knees turned out slightly in the same alignment as your toes
- Side step by bringing one foot in half way keeping the leg alignment and not leaning over with your top half
- Do 10-15 side steps one way and then return in the other direction
- Think not a waddle but a glide…
The Waltz Walk
- Stand in the same squat stance as the Crab walk but facing forwards
- Bring one foot in towards the other, then push it out forwards and to the side roughly at a 45 degree angle (like a mini side lunge)
- Repeat with the opposite leg, keeping the low squat position, not moving, leaning the top half of your body and keeping the knee alignment over the 2-3rd toes
- Do 10-15 steps forwards and then reverse by walking backwards immediately 10-15 steps
The Pee'd your Pants Walk
- Stand in the same squat stance as the Waltz Walk but this time keep up on the balls of your feet, great for the ankles as well.
- Walk forward in this squat position on your balls of your feet, keeping your leg and knees apart as if walking on railway tracks
- Do not let your heels touch the floor
- Do 10-15 steps forwards then reverse by walking backwards immediately
So that's my favourite glute strengthening exercises, I defy anyone to do 3-4 sets of those three simple exercises correctly and with good form and not feel their glutes cry out for mercy.
Do this 2-3 times a week and you will have 'buns of steel' and will be able to crack walnuts between those beautiful taut cheeks in next to no time, not to mention reduce your risk of injury.
Now as I mentioned there are lots of other exercises for glutes, and some of the others do get the o'l backside jumping as well, but I don't know about you, but im not a fan of having to lie down on my side or back in the middle of a wet/damp football field, tennis court or the side of the road before I start my training, they also tend to be more static and in not so 'functional' positions which I don't feel are best for getting your body prepared for the movement patterns its going to have to do shortly when you start running, jumping etc, there just not for me, regardless of the research etc etc, but that's not to say they are no good or any worse than others!
So I hope you found my little bit on glutes useful… and hope you enjoy doing some silly walks and if you get strange looks or anyone asks 'what are you doing', tell them some nutter physio called Adam told you to do it…
PS: See Part 2 of the Magic Glutes for some video demos of the band walks