As fitness professionals, we all want to make sure our clients are training at their best. Each program is different and should be finely tailored to the needs of each individual. That being said, there are some basics you won’t want to stray away from, no matter what your client’s goals are.
There’s no way around it, training your glutes is incredibly important, and not just for aesthetic purposes. When it comes to most full-body movements, your glutes are a key factor in the chain that completes it.
To have strong glutes, you must be able to exercise them effectively. Those spending most of their time seated in hip flexion aren’t using their glutes enough. As a result, when it comes time to work your glutes, they likely won’t fire properly during the workout unless they’ve been activated beforehand.
So, let’s dig into how to properly have your clients activate their glutes before a workout, and why this is so important overall.
What Are “Glute Muscles” And Why Are They Important?
Your gluteal muscles consist of the gluteus maximus, which is the main muscle, and then the two supporting muscles, the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. In common speech, these are the butt muscles that allow you to bend over, lift your legs, push against the ground, and all sorts of other basic movements.
Whether your clients have an aesthetic goal and want to have a more shapely rear, or they are strength training, strong glutes can make all the difference, and weak glutes can lead to physical issues and injuries.
Your glutes are a key component of any full-body kinetic chain. Like any chain, a weak link weakens the entire system. Underdeveloped or inactive glutes effectively force the effort for any squat, lunge, or similar movement to your knees, hamstrings, and back.
In short, this means your body is having to correct for a muscle imbalance. Weak glute muscles aren’t just about appearances. The consequences of ignoring them can be costly.
What Is Muscle Activation?
The importance of warm-ups largely lies with muscle activation. This is where your neurons carve a path from the muscle to the brain. With lesser-used muscles, these paths are less-reliable. Furthermore, when you, say, spend your entire day seated with your hips forward and in flexion, it takes more effort to activate these muscles prior to a workout.
Why does this matter? Well, when you perform a repetition of a squat, you should be engaging your gluteal muscles to their fullest. Normally, the effort is spread proportionally to the body’s need for the effort. When you have poorly activated glutes, you end up putting additional strain on the other supporting muscles as well as your joints.
Basically, without activation, your muscles get lazy and rely on other muscles and joint structures to compensate, creating a muscle imbalance. This also means that the muscles don’t get the fullest benefit from the workout.
Sometimes, clients who trained in the past but haven’t in a long time will think they can do more than they can sooner. Unfortunately, gluteal amnesia is a concern. This is where the muscles in your glutes have lost some of the neuron paths that used to exist. As such, they might require more focus on activation.
As such, it’s really important to activate these muscles prior to a glute exercise. When you learn to start activating muscles that have been ignored in the past, you gain the benefits of better performance, better muscle engagement, and better results.
Glute Activation Drills
Some of these will be similar to the movements of your main exercises. Bodyweight is often sufficient to engage these muscles, so it isn’t important to add load to this process. Save that for the workout when your clients’ glutes are fully activated. These drills will work well for activation.
If your client hasn’t really ever exercised in their lives, you could even start compiling a glute activation workout program with these drills, especially if they spend most of their time sitting.
Resistance Band Hip Hinge
Stand straight up in a normal posture with your feet together and the band looped around your feet, standing inside it. Bend over keeping your legs straight, knees slightly built, and take hold of the band with your hands. Then, as you would a deadlift, keep your back straight and rise back to your standing position.
Lie on your back, knees bent (like for a sit-up) with your elbows on the ground. Push your bottom off the ground, pushing your hips into the air so your feet and elbows are the only parts touching the ground.
You can increase difficulty as your clients improve by adding a resistance band to the thighs, just above the knee.
Lateral Band Walk
For this, place the resistance band just above your knees. Drop into a quarter squat, feet spread, and keep your core tight and upright.
Step to one side five steps. Then, step to the other side five steps. Repeat a few times for each set.
Resistance Band Squats
With your legs together, put the resistance band on your legs at the level of your thighs (so you have to push outward against the band with your legs to spread them. Step out into a squat position, and perform bodyweight squats. With your legs pushing out against the resistance band, it will more fully engage your glutes and prepare them for a more effective workout.
Keep Checking In With Your Clients
The issue with muscle activation, especially in something like the gluteal muscles, is that with people’s excessive sitting during their day, even trained athletes can have issues with muscle activation.
How much activation your client needs is really based on how effectively your clients are maintaining their form in workouts and whether or not they’re improving in terms of performance. Realistically speaking, you also need to check in with them frequently.
This will also serve to help you understand your clients’ needs as they develop. Regardless of experience or background, some muscle activation is important for anyone who is going to use their gluteal muscles in a workout.
The Dangers of Neglect
Failure to activate the muscles in the gluteal area can be mild to severe. The problem is that something minor can cause your body to compensate and even cause an injury—such as an overtaxed knee or pulling a muscle in the leg.
This is a matter of safety equally as much as effectiveness of your workout. Make sure you aren’t skipping this essential step.
Great for Practice Between Training Sessions
All the exercises listed previously can also be put to use anywhere someone has room to do a squat. So, the living room, behind your desk, wherever your clients spend time sitting—they can do several of these gluteal activation exercises throughout the day to combat the effects of long periods of hip flexion.
Communication is always key. This is a great excuse to contact your clients more frequently by text or email, just as a reminder of the benefits they could gain by training muscle activation in between sessions.
It would also be very simple to add this to a food log. Look for ways to make this a serious part of their day, and they will see results faster while preventing potential injury. It’s a win-win!
Check out this article if you would like to know more about glute activation.
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