International Expert in Functional Training & Calisthenics.
The 21st-century paradox:
What part of your body is one of the most glorified while at the same time being one of the most forgotten?
If you got it right, then you’re probably not part of this paradox. Or really good at guessing.
This fact bugged me, and the more I reflected on it, the more I questioned in my mind.
With social media such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc expanding so much, appearance and looks have become a major part of today’s society. Aesthetics sell…. a lot. Take a glance at Instagram, for example. What’s one of the things you see the most? Glutes.
Glutes are naturally attractive, so it makes sense to make them noticeable. I won’t go into too many details on the why because it’s a hugely complicated. But put simply, it’s (animal) instinct, the primitive part of our brain is attracted by great glutes.
Now, what’s so ironic about it?
Let’s start by explaining: what are glutes?
When I say glutes, I am actually talking about three muscles.
*The Gluteus Minimus
*The Gluteus Medius
*The Gluteus Maximus (the largest muscle in your body)
They each have different functions on their own as well as working together.
The gluteal muscles are very powerful, strong group muscles that are used for a variety of things. Whether it’s for dynamic or isometric movement, they should be used to protect other muscles that aren’t supposed to work as hard. They connect your upper body and lower body.
Think of your glutes as the nuclear power station that gives power to the rest of your body. Everything from walking, to doing push-ups, to snatching 100kg overhead is stabilised by the glute muscles. If they’re not strong, everything else is compromised.
You may have heard the term “glute amnesia” somewhere. It’s a major health problem of the 21st century. There’s a big correlation between back pain and underactive glutes. In fact, most lower back issues could be avoided by glute training.
There are only 2 anatomical positions that don’t mechanically involve our glutes. One of them is obviously laying down. The other one is less obvious, even debatable. Sitting. Why? Simply because they serve as a cushion. It might seem silly, but imagine how uncomfortable sitting down would be if your glutes weren’t thick at all. You probably wouldn’t spend more than 5 minutes sat down.
Nowadays, about 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some point in their life. On the flip side, glutes are glorified in today’s society due to aesthetics having so much value.
You’re likely asking yourself right now:
How can the glutes be so important for looks and simultaneously be a major problem?
Simply because looks and function aren’t the same. Having glutes as big as two basketballs together isn’t a measure of being healthy. Yet it seems that looks matter most. And here’s the paradox: What you see as good-looking glutes are probably genetics rather than well-functioning, good glutes.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you can’t train to improve your glutes, but those muscles were “designed” to work in a certain way. For example, the primary function of your Gluteus maximus is an extension of the hip. Movements such as quarter squatting, dead lifting with a rounded back or using a smith machine won’t fire up your glutes as they should and that is the big issue.
Most “influencers” sell good aesthetics, which is attractive to almost everyone – unless you’re really into anatomy, biomechanics and training (that narrows it down to a very small percentage of the population). So are you doing any good to yourself by trying to reproduce what they promote?
There are a few glute exercises you can do that will give you a health boost:
-Anterior/posterior pelvic tilt: This one is quite easy, and its purpose is more to re-educate your hips to move. Simply stand straight, in your neutral position. Now start arching your back and then squeeze your glutes hard. You’ll notice that your hips naturally change position by clockwise.
-Deadlift: Pick something up from the ground using your glutes. Grab a barbell, a kettlebell, a med ball, a water bottle (anything really) and lift it off the floor from a squatting position up to your thighs while keeping your back straight, your shins relatively straight (with soft knees) and pushing your glutes back. Reverse the process to perform reps to improve glutes.
-Hip Thrust: Lay down on the floor looking at the ceiling. Flex your knees so you can plant your feet on the floor. Now simply squeeze your glutes while elevating your hips as if you were trying to push them to the ceiling. Think about pushing your heels into the ground as hard as you can to make sure you’re firing up your glutes.
Give it a try! If you improve your glutes’ function, everything else will improve too. Guaranteed. And the looks will come after!