You hear it everywhere:
“Work the core.”
“Be sure to have a strong core to avoid back pain.”
“It’s important to have core strength when working out.”
Most people, when they refer to the “core”, mean the abdominals. They believe that a strong core is essential to fixing your achy back.
I beg to differ.
Yes, the abs are important. Most people have lost the ability to move from their “center”, therefore teaching them how to work the core is VERY important. In fact, I would suggest you read this article to learn some basics on engaging the ever important TVA, a vital part of your actual core.
However, there is one major muscle group that has proven time and time again that they are actually more important to functional movement than the abdominals: the GLUTES. The glutes consist of 3 major muscles:
- The gluteus maximus, which does external rotation and extension of the hip joint (moving the leg backwards).
- The gluteus minimus, which does abduction of the hip (moving the leg away from the body).
- The gluteus medius, which also does abduction of the hip (moving the leg away from the body).
As you can see these muscles are important mover and stabilizers of the hip joint. The glutes assist us in walking, sitting, standing, climbing stairs, getting out of bed, and every other lower body movement.
The problem these days, is that we SIT on the glutes all day long, rendering them weak and useless. Without the proper use of the glutes, the hamstrings and lower back muscles end up taking over far more work than they should. The abdominals are strong and can support a weak lower back, but if the lower back keeps having to compensate for sleepy glutes, then the abs will never be able to keep up.
This leads to lower back pain, and other chronic conditions such as knee issues, that could easily have been avoided by proper use of the glutes.
Not convinced yet? Working the glutes will give you a nice, shapely, butt.
Ok now that you’re on board, here is my favorite glute exercise that you can do with absolutely NO equipment.
Be careful, it’s very easy to cheat on this exercise. By cheating, I mean using your lower back muscles instead of your glutes. Be very very cautious to read the directions and pay special attention to this common mistake.
- Lie face down with the hands interlaced under the forehead and the legs hip-width distance apart.
- Engage the abdominals by pulling the belly away from the floor. This will help stabilize the pelvis so that you do NOT arch from the lower back when doing this exercise.
- Keep one leg straight behind you (this means do NOT bend the knee) and lift that leg off the floor. Visualize the leg moving up from the crease between the leg and butt. Keep the pelvis still and don’t use the lower back to lift the leg higher.
- The quality of movement is more important than the quantity. Therefore do not worry about how high the leg gets. It’s more important that the leg is straight, the lower back is still, and that you feel the work coming from the glute and hamstring muscles.
Repeat this exercise for 10 to 15 repetitions on each leg. It’s recommended to do this exercise daily to counteract the constant hip flexion (sitting) and to re-activate your weakened glutes.