Okay, enough with the corny one-liners and let’s get down to the BASE-ics. Ha. Ha. Ha. Okay butt seriously…
Getting a hint as to where this one is going? Yes, it’s the butt. I promise I have a lot more coming your way other than notes about the booty, but they always say write what you're passionate about, right?
One of my absolute favorite areas to work out is my butt. Yes, I do my squats, lunges, and donkey kicks to one day have that perfect backside, but it is also one of the MOST important areas to work for stability, posture, and injury prevention. If anyone has been to physical therapy, you’d notice that at almost any point in the day, you will see a patient perform clamshells or sidesteps or squats, but I bet a million dollars there is more than one diagnosis being treated with those exercises. This is because these hip muscles are not only for looking good but are essential in providing a stable base for both your legs and trunk.
Think about it this way. Would you expect a table to stay standing with Gumby for legs?
Would you serve Thanksgiving dinner (yes, you should consider yourself as delectable as Thanksgiving dinner) on a slanted or wobbly table?
So why would you do that to your body? Don’t!
The hips are made up of several important muscles, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to refer to them as your hip abductors and hip extensors.
Your hip abductors are your “side butt” with the most important being the gluteus medius. This is what is responsible for lifting your leg out to the side and for keeping your hips level when your foot is planted standing on one leg.
Your primary hip extensor is the gluteus maximus…the meat of the butt. Your hip extensors are responsible for kicking your leg back or for tucking your hips back underneath you when planted (ex final phase of squat ascension).
I’m sure you have heard of your “glutes” but you may not know how incredibly important they are, other than for looking good in those jeans.
When you are in pilates performing the happy clam, doing that single leg deadlift, or performing side-steps with a band around your ankles and you feel that burn on the side of your butt, you are working the hip abductors. When you stand on one leg, your hip abductors need to fire to stabilize your pelvis and keep it level.
Guess what you do every day that requires standing on one leg?
Picture that sassy runway walk. Yeah, looks great but that swagger isn’t doing you any favors. Any time you stand on one leg, you need those hip abductors to fire up to prevent this from happening.
Each time you take a step and swing through that opposite, you are standing on one leg. When your hip abductors are weak, that opposite hip drops leading to a chain reaction down the limb: knee drops in leading to the foot pronating (rotating in, collapsing the arch). This puts a ton of stress on the joints, ligaments, and muscles, etc. where there shouldn’t be. If that’s happening while you are walking, think about how much stress there could be when you’re running? Do you have knee pain after running? Hip abductor weakness may be a contributor to that pain. It is essential to tell your brain to turn those suckers on and start using them!
Try this: stand in front of a mirror, place your hands evenly on your hips, and pick up one leg.
Where are your hands now? Still in a straight line? Is one lower than the other? If so, looks like your hip dropped and you can blame your gluteus medius on your standing leg.
Pull that hip back up (still on one leg) to even your hips back out. Congrats. You just found your gluteus medius!
If your hip didn’t drop, good for you! You are one step ahead of the game! Now the challenge is to keep using that muscle when you are moving, walking, etc. More on that to come.
Next up, the meat of the butt.
This muscle sounds like a super hero because that’s what it should be. The muscle helps us with propulsion when walking and running, standing up from a chair, climbing stairs, and setting a stable base for our spine and upper body. When used correctly, it can be the most powerful muscle in the body, however, unfortunately this muscle acts more like Eeyore instead of that energetic T-I-Double-Ga-Errrr (Tigger if you didn’t get that reference.)
Try this: Go up a flight of stairs. Where did you feel it? Your knees or your butt? Where was the weight in your foot? The front or back? If the weight was in the ball of your foot or you felt the force in your quads or knees, you probably weren’t using your glute max.
Now try planting your foot, hinging slightly forward at the hip, and pushing up through your heel. Feel different? Congrats, you turned on your glute max!
Okay, yeah, yeah, great, you know where your muscles are, but now what?
Get working on that booty! Doesn’t it feel better when you know that working for that round tush is much more important than just for vanity?
If you still feel a little lost, don’t worry. Got ya covered. Specific exercises to target these muscles are headed your way!