Do you have underactive glutes?
This common issue occurs when your glutes aren't firing as efficiently or effectively as they should be. This results in your body resourcing other muscles to pick up the slack, which creates asymmetry within your hips.
So why are your glutes so important? And why do you hear a lot of instructors talk about your glute strength? Because when we don't have good recruitment patterns occurring within our glutes or hip muscles, we end up with low back, knee and hip issues. Most of us can perform an exercise that looks correct, however...most of us are overworking our strongest muscles and overloading the same joints. We are often, in fact, compensating for our weak glutes!
To be clear, your glutes are working; they just aren't performing effectively. So why don't our glutes fire as effectively or efficiently?
The main reason? Our modern lifestyle. We find ourselves sitting much more than we find ourselves squatting. I don't mean a gym squat with weight; I mean squatting down to pick something up off the floor while bending our knees and flexing our hip joint. When we often sit (in cars, at desks, tables, or couches) it slowly but surely leads to our hip flexors tightening up, which affects the recruitment patterns of our muscles as we engage them. Tight hip flexors INHIBIT our glutes from firing effectively.
If you aren't mobile in one area, you may seek out mobility from others. So if you can't correctly fully extend your hip, guess where you'll try and get that extension from often? Your lower back!
Do you ever find it hard to lower and lift your legs keeping your low back on the floor? This is more often than not a result of tight hip flexors. If your hips are tight and not allowing proper extension, your glutes won't fire properly. If your glutes aren't able to fire, you'll need to use other muscles to lift the load. This is when you may feel your quads taking over. Or your hamstrings. Or even your lower back working harder than it should. This is a prime cause and effect of how injuries can occur over time. Things you will notice if these compensations are happening? Sore low back, knees, ankles after your workout.
It all relates back to a lack of proper mobility and a lack of glute activation.
If you take time to relax overactive hip flexors and activate your glutes (with Pilates), you can prevent overuse injuries, increase stability, and even help yourself run faster, move better, and strengthen your entire powerhouse.
Now you may be thinking, "Well, I stretch my hips all the time and nothing helps long term." This may be because stretching, while it may improve your flexibility momentarily, does NOT change how your mind wants to use those muscles, nor does it allow for your glutes to enter the equation and carry the load. Stretching alone won't get those underactive muscles ACTIVATED to change your recruitment patterns.
Enjoy this 10 mins class below that targets your outer hips (AKA glute medius) and will alert your body to re-activate a largely underutilized muscle.
Enjoy this 10 min class!