Feng Shui Your Butt Part II: Why the Glutes are Critical to a Pain Free Existence

Last time on Fitness411 we talked about what the best glute exercise is (bridges) based on an EMG study by Bret Contreras and the potential pitfalls of having weak glutes. You would think that would be enough to pacify you people, but no, you’re a very high maintanence lot because of how you’ve been raised in the IPF blogosphere.
You are still going to get the top exercises to hammer the glutes, but you’re going to have to wait just a little longer. Think of it as a a fitness Christmas Eve.  Trust me, its worth the wait.
Prior to getting into how you should train the glutes and delving deeper into how you will get injured (not, if, or might, but will) if your glutes are weak, you need to know where they are and what they actually do. I’ve told you  several times that you do need strong butt muscles, and if you come to IPF, you’ve heard “squeeze your cheeks and smash a dime with your butt” so many times that you’d be pretty damn rich if you had a nickel for each one.
What you haven’t been told is where they are located, what these muscles actually do and why it is so critical for them to work properly. So, gather round people, its time for Al to spin a you the tale of the tookus.
The Glute Complex
The glutes are comprised of four muscles: glute medius , the glute minimus and the grandaddy of them all, the glute maximus and the tensor fascia latae.
Where are they?
They are located on the outers surface of the ilium, iliac crest and the front and back of the gluteal line in the pelvis.
What do they do?
These muscles function to both accelerate and decelerate the hips, provide dynamic stabilization of the pelvis and lumbar spine area, move the leg away from the mid line of the body, internally rotate the hip as well as extend the leg behind you allowing you to produce forward motion. If you want a deeper look into this the book “The Anatomy of Movement” does and incredible job of explaining exactly how our muscles move our bones.
What happens if they don’t work?
When any one of these muscles get out of balance, you develop hip dysfunctions and pain isn’t too far behind. This happens quickly. Trust me. I’ve been there because of the amount of riding I do, and it is nothing short of horrid to get it back online. The list of potential injury from this muscle group going south is pretty long, and its best to stear clear.
Typical signs of this include:
  • The low back arching as the hip flexors, lats and spinal erectors tighten up (think someone with “swayback”).
  • Circumduction (foot making a circular motion from the knee to ankle) in runners
  • Hip hiking and internal/external rotation in a single leg squat
  • Torso rotation in a single leg squat
  • Forward rounded shoulders
  • Tenderness at the base of the neck
  • Headaches behind the eyes
  • Excessive pronation
Common injuries include:
  • Over pronating and “flat feet”
  • Patellar tendonitis
  • Plantar faciitis
  • IT Band Syndrome
  • Knee pain
  • Hip pain
  • Hamstring strains/pulls
  • Groin pulls
  • Low back pain
  • Excessive soft tissue trauma
  • Increase in both sheer and compressive forces in the discs of the spine that can lead to degenerations and nerve impingements. If you’ve ever had sciatica, you know how much fun this can be.
The best part about this is that you can easily develop this from sitting all day, riding a bike, running and swimming. These activities will shorten the hip flexors causing them to become overactive and shutting down the normal activity of the glute complex.
So, now that you know what exercise fires the most glute maximus muscle (the bridge), where they are located and what happens when the they don’t work, we can finally get into the best ways to train them, in part III.
Al Painter is National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES) and Corrective Exercise Specialist (CES) who specializes in working with baseball players and endurance athletes.He is also the President and Founder of INTEGRATE Performance Fitness. CitySports Magazine named Al the “Bay Area’s Best Personal Trainer,” and he has also received a “People’s Choice Award” from the Palo Alto Daily News.

Al is also the Fitness Editor for VeloReviews.com. INTEGRATE Performance Fitness has also been named “Northern California’s Best Fitness Facility” by Competitor Magazine, “Best Mountain View Training Facility” by the U.S. Commerce Association, “Excellence in Customer Satisfaction Award” winner by Talk of the Town as well as a “Top 5 Bay Area Fitness Facility” by the SFGate.com.