“I can’t get my glutes to fire on this side” is a common complaint from my clients. Living in a society where we tend to spend a lot of time sitting, I’m not surprised.
When the glutes don’t contract well, our hamstrings (those big bullies!) tend to overwork and that makes them feel tight.
Isolating the glutes and helping your brain to start using them more efficiently only requires the correct position and some simple exercises called isometrics.
Isometric exercises help to contract the muscle without movement. Pushing into a wall, chair, table leg or door frame and some concentration is all you require. You can do isometrics almost anywhere.
For all of the following exercises, do six repetitions holding for six seconds each with a three second rest in between.
Glute Medius: Lie on your back with the involved side next to something immovable such as a wall. Move the leg next to the wall so that your leg is out away from your midline about thirty degrees (even less if this is too much at first). Start with the knee cap pointing up in neutral and place the flat of your hand on your hip. As you begin gently pushing your foot or ankle in to the wall you should feel the muscle pop up into your hand. Once you feel the muscle contract, keep pushing but no harder. Just maintain the gentle push for six seconds, then rest for three seconds and repeat. Remember to maintain a neutral pelvis and watch for any movement in the ribs; keep them heavy just the way you do in pilates classes. Repeat the same exercise with the kneecap turned inward and again with the kneecap turned outward.
Glute Minimus: Assume the same position next to the wall as you did for the previous exercise, but this time stack a couple of yoga blocks (or books) next to the wall so that your leg is elevated (up to thirty degrees). Turn the kneecap to point inwards and gently push into the wall while resting your foot and ankle on the blocks. Repeat this exercise with the kneecap pointing outwards. Feel for the work in your hip and push more softly if you are in any discomfort.
Glute Maximus: Turn over and lie on your stomach. Stack your palms under your forehead so that your upper body
is relaxed. During this exercise, keep your pelvis heavy and don’t allow your hip bones to lift away from the floor. Move the involved leg about six inches out from your midline and bend the knee. Gently lengthen your thigh bone and try to make the thigh feel lighter without lifting it off the floor. If you are not sure you feel the muscle working reach around and place your hand on your sacrum. Repeat the exercise, and see if you can feel the muscle contract under your palm. Hold the contraction for six seconds and repeat as before. Once you have completed the first set allow the lower leg and foot to fall in towards the other leg which turns the thigh bone outward. Holding this position; repeat the exercise. Finally, move the involved leg next to your other leg (slight adduction). Bend the knee and allow the lower leg and foot to fall outward away from your midline. This movement turns the thigh bone inward. Repeat the exercise in this position.
Voila. You’re all done.
Begin every day with this series of exercises so that you will move through the day with ease as your glutes fire up and get stronger.