Improve your spine health by activating your glutei muscles

Aug 23, 2019

Your glutes are the big muscles of your hip, bottom and lower back - they’re the ones
you feel when you do a deep squat. And they are really important when it comes to
keeping your spine healthy. When working to their full potential, your glutes can
carry a lot of the load that would otherwise fall to your lower back meaning less risk
of injury to your spine or damage to the smaller back muscles.

The relationship between glutes and back pain
By making sure your glutes are working hard you can reduce stress and tension on
your lower back.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It’s not necessarily!

Many people have something called gluteal amnesia meaning the glutes shut off
allowing other muscles to do all the work instead. This means that your spine may
not getting the protection it needs from the surrounding muscles day to day as you
move around. But worse than this, for many people, even when they are using the
correct exercise to build core strength and stability and reduce back pain, if the
glutes are not activated the exercises will not be working as they should be.
When it comes to exercises for the lower back it’s not what you do but how you do

How to find out whether your glutes are dominant or not
Where your glutes are not activated it is easy for other muscles to become dominant
and override them. This means that when you begin exercising you must be aware of
‘switching your glutes on’ so that they are working as they should be.

I often find that patients who suffer from lower back pain have over-active
hamstrings. This suggests that they are dominant and are working harder than the
larger glutes. In order to work towards strengthening, core stability and reducing
back pain it’s vital that you make sure your glutes are activated otherwise the
exercises you do will not be working to their full potential.

Using the shoulder bridge as a glute activating exercise
In order to get the most out of any position, it’s always worth investigating how to
do it properly. In this tutorial I look at the key teaching points you need to consider
when doing the shoulder bridge, to make sure your glutes are activated throughout
and you’re not working your hamstrings instead.

Positioning yourself ready to perform a shoulder bridge, with your feet flat on the
floor, you should go through a process of clenching your glutes (by squeezing your
butt cheeks together) and relaxing your hamstrings repeatedly as you work your way
up into the correct raised position. The video tutorial takes you through how to do
this successfully.

Using this technique will help ensure that your glutes do not dominate, and you are
beginning to build up your core strength and stability in the right way.
Introducing a band to help activate glutes

If you are struggling to stop your glutes dominating, you can introduce a resistance
band around your knees to help activate the smaller glute muscles on the sides of your hips. As you feel your hamstrings begin to dominate, moving your knees
outwards away from each other will help to bring your glutes back online.

As you practise this exercise it will become easier with time to activate your glutes
quickly and easily and engage them naturally before and type of exercise or
movement that is liable to impact on your back and spine.

What’s more, these techniques can be applied to many other exercises to make sure
that you are always supporting and strengthening your core as intended.

Find out more by reserving your spot on my Fundamentals of Spine Health webinar
and start your journey towards a pain-free back and improved spine health.

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