Working Your Butt Off

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It’s time to check in and see if you have made progress toward your fitness goals this year. Last issue we looked at possible setbacks. Of course, you have encountered plenty of obstacles by now, but hopefully you have been able to surmount most, if not all, of them. And if not, don’t give up all hope yet. The year is still young, and there are lots of creative ways for us lucky Austinites to improve our bodies, minds … and our buns!

Let’s talk about butts. You have a desk job, so you’re stuck slumped over in a chair all day. Well, where’s your butt gone? It’s kind of merged with your leg. Not hot. The glute is actually one of our most powerful, naturally round muscles. Think about how sprinters have such powerful glutes. Nice!

So let’s correct this. First, lengthen your shortened hip flexor muscles. Stretch. Think about isolating these muscles in your stretch so your leg can lengthen appropriately and fully. A trainer or a knowledgeable friend can give you some ideas, or even better, help you in a partner-assisted stretch. My personal favorite: Lying on my side, I grab the foot of my top leg with the hand on the same side. It is basically the same thing as a standing quad stretch, but I don’t have to balance and can focus more on maximizing the stretch.

How to workout those glutes: Focus your movement right on the glute. If your balance is already a little off (the glutes are a little under-used), it is going to work best to really isolate this muscle. This usually means you want to take all the other possible factors out of the equation. Remember the fire- hydrant exercises, where Jane Fonda had you on all fours with one leg extended straight behind you as you lifted your leg and heel toward the ceiling? This is a great one to isolate the glutes. You can also perform this exercise standing. It’s the same idea, but the leg kicks back behind you with a small movement, isolating the glute. Of course, the squat is always touted as a great exercise for the power booty.

Speaking of focus, yoga and pilates are great ways to focus on lengthening the hip flexors and firing those underutilized glutes. In yoga, many of the poses focus on really feeling the ground starting at your feet. Then the length in your leg comes from focusing on pulling the energy of the earth all the way from your feet to your center. It may sound a little esoteric, but in physical reality it makes lots of sense – how you stand on your feet determines how your weight is distributed in your legs. You can test it out by standing up, shifting your weight to your heels, and you should feel your glutes more. Put more weight on your toes, and you will feel it more in your quads and the front of your legs. A lot of us clench with our toes, collapse our arches, never really feel the ground with our whole foot. A repetitive pattern like this is going to cause imbalance in the leg, an inability to fire those glutes proactively for maximum booty power.

The glutes are “power” muscles. Power = speed x strength. So, in addition to working to strengthen your glutes, you will want to fire them often (and rapidly). When thinking of power-based exercises, think “dynamic.” Jumping rope, stair or hill repeats, incline treadmill walking, kickboxing, short sprints, these all combine aspects of speed and strength, which equal nice glutes.

Get behind your new power booty (or get that new power booty behind you)! Be sure to stretch out those tight hip flexors so you can really work your butt off, spread out your feet so your legs can support you properly, and take some “speed X strength” action to fire your rear muscle fibers. Everyone standing behind you will thank you for your hard work.

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