I know what you're thinking: "But Arianna! I can squat 250 pounds. My glutes are really strong!" In a perfect world, you would achieve glute activation in the back squat, but many of the back squats I see people execute in the gym make use of the anterior quadriceps muscle and recruit minimal activation from their posterior chain. The truth is, if you are a predominantly sedentary person (meaning you sit for 4+ hours a day at home or at work), you probably don't know how to correctly activate your glutes because you're not using them for the majority of the day. Fear not--you are part of the American majority who sits at a desk job all day. It's no wonder that we don't know how to activate the right muscle groups considering we don't use them as often as we should.
Underactive or weak glutes can cause a ton of problems, including lower back pain, knee pain, IT band syndrome, and a whole slew of other maladies. Your quadriceps may be strong enough to squat 250 lbs, but guess what? If you learned how to activate your glutes properly, you would easily squat over 300 lbs.
The gluteus maximus (one of three muscles that make up what we collectively call the "glutes") is the biggest muscle in your body. Now, if we learn how to properly employ the strength of this tremendous group of muscles, we are going to see some real magic happen. Whether we're doing a deadlift, a squat, a box jump or a clean and jerk, we need to learn to properly harness the power from our glutes in order to move the most amount of weight and avoid injury.
In order to utilize the strength of the ever-powerful gluteal muscles, we must focus on activating them. Some great exercises can be found in my previous article about warm-ups, but I'll list a few more that I really like here:
- Single leg or weighted glute bridges
- Banded walks
- Reverse hyper extensions
- Single leg Romanian deadlifts
- GHD raise
- Bulgarian split squats
- Reverse lunges
- Side plank with abduction
Once you learn to properly engage your posterior chain, you will see tremendous gains in strength while simultaneously protecting your body from injury. If you have humongous quadriceps and a small butt, that should be a red flag to you that your glutes needs some more attention. Channel your inner Nicki Minaj and start building a bigger booty!