Hopefully you had a chance to check out the first part of this post here where I talk about exactly WHAT are “the glutes”, how they function, and how you work them through various methods.
But the one thing people don’t think about when it comes to building muscle is how in balance the range of motion of the other muscles in your body are, and how that will effect your progress in the gym. You see, building muscle isn’t solely about focusing on one specific group and killing it as much as you can on the gym floor. One thing that needs to be considered is whether the muscles that either help that particular muscle to work, or the ones that work in opposition to that muscle, have enough flexibility in them to allow the group in focus to fully and properly fire.
So let’s look at the other equation on the road to building the perfect butt. Flexibility training, and what YOU must start to do today to make your workouts more effective.
As we’ve discussed in the last post, the gluteal muscles are actually a combination of three different muscles: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus. All three work synergistically (together) to perform actions at the hip joint such as hip extension, abduction (taking the leg away from the body as in side leg raises), and external rotation (rotating or turning the leg outwards from the hip). Sometimes due to overuse or natural compensations that occur and aggrandize as we age, these muscles can often become weaker over time; muscles that surround the glutes that work in opposition to them (like the hip flexors located in the front of the body) get tight as well, thus the glutes may or may not be able to fully fire in the way you want them to during your workouts. Let’s talk about some possible reasons WHY these muscles may be tight through a few scenarios:
Long Hours Of Sitting
We’ve heard before that sitting for large portions of your day can have a huge impact on your waistline since you’re not burning as many calories as you would be if you were able to actually get up and move around. Well guess what else it does to the body, leaves for the PERFECT STORM to create tight hip flexors and weak glutes!
Generally speaking, if the hip flexors are tight, the glutes WILL be weak since the lack of flexibility in the hip flexors inhibits the glutes from being able to move through full ranges of motion. Limit your range of motion, you limit a muscle’s ability to fully contract and thus not get the biggest bang for your buck when training that muscle in the gym. Another thing about sitting all day is that since the legs are bent at the hip, you’re putting the glute muscles in a stretched position all day long. A muscle that has now become adapted to being and staying at rest all day is going to have issues when it comes to having it fire in the way it’s supposed to when YOU expect it to work (like during your squats). So someone who has a desk job will want to make sure they are adequately stretching the hip flexors both before AND after their workouts to see improvements in the size, shape, and strength of the butt over time.
Wearing High Heels All Day Long
Aaaaaah the stiletto… The necessary evil in any woman’s wardrobe. The beautiful BAIN of our very existence. Look, I’m not going to tell you to NOT wear your heels ladies, God knows that I LOVE a mean shoe game. However, what you should consider is how these wonderful pieces of fashion styling are literally killing your butt development. Being in a pair of heels puts the calves in complete contraction all day long. Therefore you are SHORTENING your calves leading to less flexibility over time. So then what happens at the end of your day is you go to the gym, you put on your sneakers, you hit the squat rack. But you find that getting down into a deep squat is hard because your calves WON’T allow you to! So you complain that your calves are tight and you can’t seem to figure out why. Well what I often say to my female clients
much to their chagrin, is that their shoes are one of the main culprits, and if they want to make the most out of their efforts they should consider wearing stylish flat shoes around the office when heels aren’t needed, or to wear flats a few days a week altogether to give the heels (and your calves a rest).
Another thing about heels that inhibits your glute development is that they change your natural gait pattern. Instead of walking with a more midfoot or heel strike as seen when not wearing stilettos, you’re walking on your toes (with the expense of your weight not being properly distributed along the rest of your foot). So whereas in a walking pattern where the energy travels up the kinetic chain and the glutes get to do the work their designed to do while walking, the shoes interrupt this pattern leaving a window wide open for causing further weakening of the glutes.
Sitting With Your Legs Crossed
Ok by now you’re probably feeling like EVERYTHING you’re doing is all wrong. Don’t beat yourself up too much. But before moving onto how to correct these issues, I want to go over one more thing.
Did you know that sitting with your legs CROSSED can lead to weaker glutes? Well if you didn’t, now you do! Crossing the legs will shorten your adductors (inner thigh muscles), thus tightening them. It also puts the glutes muscles in even more of a stretch. As we’ve discussed earlier, any muscle being put on a stretch for long periods of time chronically will have issues when it comes to that muscle being able to properly fire.
One of the most immediate places where you see this inhibition of proper glute firing is when taking a squat. If you ever notice that your knees have a tendency to buckle in towards the midline of your body, you can definitely guarantee that your adductors are overactive, and your butt muscles have become inherently weakened. So for you taking a look at how you sit during the day, as well as incorporating some flexibility exercises for the adductors should be a top priority on your list.
Correcting Tight Muscles To Build A Rounder More Fabulous Butt
One of the first things that you want to do when you hit the gym prior to beginning your leg workout is to STRETCH! One form of flexibility that should not be overlooked is foam rolling. Foam rolling is a form of flexibility called Self Myofacial Release (SMR). SMR works by way of a principle known as autogenic inhibition. Autogenic inhibition occurs when you place tension on a muscle and special sensory structures called Golgi Tendon Organs (GTO – which are located at the insertion point where the muscle attaches to a tendon) becomes excited and thus, activated. The role of the GTO is to detect the amount of tension on any given muscle. Essentially, it tracks how much tension is being placed on a given muscle, and how fast of a rate that tension is being produced. When the nervous system senses that this rate reaches a certain level, it directs the body to stop contracting that muscle, thus relaxing it. According to the NASM (National Academy of Sports Medicine) website:
When a muscle is “tight”, overactive, or you feel a “knot” then you typically foam roll that muscle. The act of placing pressure via a foam roll helps to stimulate the Golgi tendon organ to create autogenic inhibition which ends up releasing the “bundled up” muscle and helps to straighten it out. Think of this one as involving applied pressure to release tension in a muscle.
That is essentially the root of what foam rolling is and how it works. Now, let’s talk about application in your program.
I always suggest that clients start off with about 3-5 mins of cardio to begin, and then follow up with some foam rolling to help loosen up tight muscles BEFORE starting your workout. In doing this, you’re able to insure that the body comes into somewhat of a state of balance before putting it to work. Over time, this will lead to increased ranges of motion, and proper joint mechanics – hence better muscular development and LESS chances of injury (either chronic or acute). So before beginning your workout, you should consider adding the following foam rolling exercises to your regime (Courtesy of one of my favorite YouTube Channels – Health Performance Centre – St Albans:
As I’ve said above these exercises should be done both before AND after your workouts. Over time you’ll definitely see an increase in you range of motion for your squats and lunges, as well as the ability for you to be able to really work the glutes as best you can free of any imbalance issues. In addition to the foam rolling I do suggest for you to add the following static stretches to your regime at the end of your workout as well (Courtesy of Bodybuilding.com):