Learn How To Activate The Booty
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body
Glute activation is a learned skill, one that improves with practice
Beginners should use a glute activation protocol in the warm-up for at least two to four weeks
The term "gluteal amnesia" has been floating around the interwebs lately. In short, it refers to the inability to use or feel your glutes during a movement. Fortunately for us, gluteal amnesia doesn't exist. If it did, you wouldn't be able to walk or stand upright. However, you might not be using your glutes to their full potential due to other muscles doing the work for you (i.e., hip flexors, lower back, quadriceps). If you suffer from constant back pain or can't get feel your glutes during a workout, then your glutes might not be firing on all cylinders. Moreover, this should cause some concern, not the end of the world concern, but enough to motivate you to make a change. Lucky for you, glute activation is an easy skill to learn, and yes, it is a skill.
What Do The Glutes Do?
Besides filling out jeans and turning heads, the glutes play an essential role in the daily activities we perform. Without a strong hiney; walking, running, and love making would not exist. Yes, you read that correctly. Can you guess which muscle is responsible for hip thrusting? I will give you a hint, it starts with a "G" and ends with an "S"... gluteus maximus!
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the human body, and for a good reason. It is mainly responsible for hip extension, abduction, and external rotation. It also assists in hip adduction, internal rotation, and pelvic stabilization too. Take a look at the images below to see all the movements. The glute max is the MVP of the muscular system.
However, the glute max isn't doing it alone, just like Lebron James needed Kyrie Irving to win a championship, the GM needs help too. The two other glute muscles are the gluteus medius and minimus (see above). They play a smaller role, but an important one nonetheless. They help with hip extension slightly, but their primary function is hip abduction and knee stability (insert muscle actions). Now that you have a solid understanding of what the glutes do, it is time to teach you how to use them!
Glute Activation Is A Learned Skill
Do you remember what it was like to learn how to ride a bike? I do. It wasn't pleasant and quite scary at times. My Dad's strategy was to push my brothers and me down our grass hill. You know, throw yourself in the deep end and swim to survive. Unfortunately for us, we didn't learn quick enough, we just fell.
When learning a new skill, I believe it is best to break it down into small chunks. So instead of getting pushed down a hill, maybe use training wheels and a flat surface. We will apply the training wheel model to training the glutes.
How Long Does It Take To Increase Glute Activation?
To maximally recruit muscle, you should perform an exercise that includes all of its movements. Quiz time! What are the main movements of the glute max?
Hip External Rotation
Question number two, which exercise would you use? Lucky for you, a recent study answered the question for you. Don't you love the internet sometimes?
The study required participants to complete one hour a day of the exercise below. Participants were instructed to perform one minute holds for twenty minutes, three times a day totaling one hour.
After the week of training, the subjects saw an increase in GM activation.
"Short-term GM activation training resulted in a significant increase in corticomotor excitability as well as changes in inhibitory processes of the GM. We propose that the observed corticomotor plasticity will enable better utilization of the GM in the more advanced stages of a rehabilitation/training program (1)"
Are you confused by the quote above? In short, the study shows a challenging glute training program can improve glute function. How cool is that! The research proves that muscle recruitment is a skill, one that increases with practice and repetition. I understand it was a massive amount of training, but most of us do have an hour a day to exercise. If you don't, then it's not a priority for you. As Debbie Millman says, "Busy is a decision."
Personally, I think the exercise they selected in the study is boring and not enjoyable for most. So I selected exercises that my clients enjoy and have seen success with. I don’t think it is realistic to perform an hour of isometric holds for six days straight. Nonetheless, we can still apply the same principle of glute activation, but with different exercises. According to the study above, we can increase GM recruitment in as little as a week. Most likely, you won't be training as vigorous as the subjects in the study. So to be safe, I recommend performing the exercises below for the next two to four weeks before working out. Remember, first you have to learn how to ride with training wheels before going down a big hill.
Repeat Warm-Up Three Times
90/90 ISO Hip Lift: 5 exhales
Quadruped Hip Extension With Band 10-15 reps
Quadruped Hip Abduction With Band 10-15 reps