Activating the Glutes

Modern civilization, with its introduction of laziness and chairs, has anatomically destroyed the human body. Humans, designed by whatever or whomever to be active and limber, have become sedentary and immobile. Why is this? Civilization has imposed upon us the need to sit our booties for hours at a time while staring blankly at a computer screen.

A leather chair.
Those damn chairs.

It’s quite a change from how our ancestors used to live.

One result of these “changes” is our impaired musculoskeletal system. By sitting for hours at a time, our hips are stuck in a certain position – our hip flexors are shortened, and our glutes are lengthened. Overtime, our hip flexors become “permanently” shortened. This is what most people call being “inflexible” or “tight”. Unfortunately, this affects the rest of our muscles and joints, too

Lower-cross syndrome.Our whole posture gets yanked around when this happens. Usually, when there is a tight and overactive muscle, there is a weak and inactive muscle to go with it. The glutes and hip flexors are in a flexor/extensor relationship – they counteract each other. When you contract your hips, you relax your glutes, and vice versa. So when your hip flexors are chronically tight and active, your glutes are going to be chronically loose and underactive.

Again, this is bad. You NEED your glutes for movement and power-generation. The glutes are responsible for hip extension – that is, the squat, the deadlift, the goodmorning, the stride (walking, running, or sprinting), the lunge,  the jump, the tackle, and so on. When you activate the glutes, you produce powerful movement. If you can’t activate them, then you can’t produce power.

So, what do you do to fix this issue? Well, inhibit and lengthen the tight and overactive muscle, then activate the underactive and lax muscle.

Above is a video on hip mobility from Elliott Hulse, an insanely intelligent strength coach down in Florida. Honestly, he covers all of the basics for your hips here.

This is a video that I’ve posted on my blog before, regarding activation of the glutes. The exercise in this one is the glute bridge, a simple yet effective movement that re-engages the glutes. This coach does an excellent job on explaining the exercise and how it helps with tight hip flexors and anterior pelvic tilt.

Finally, this last video shows yet another glute exercise, that activates the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, which are responsible for hip abduction and external rotation. Think of shoving your knees out f the way while you squat down – that’s what these particular gluteal muscles do. Without them, your knees collapse inward, and you risk injury.

For some equipment to help loosen up the tight, overactive muscles, check out and get yourself some foam rollers and lacrosse balls. Both of those tools can be used to massage the muscles and improve their tissue quality. there’s only so much you can do with stretching! massage is a must.

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  1. Photo Credits
    Glutes. Author: sv:Användare:Chrizz.
    Chair. Author: Didouner.

  2. Hello, I have a problem with low back pain caused by muscle tightness. Can you suggest exercises to get rid of this pain. I have been at the gym now for 8 months and this problem has just occurred. Your help would be appreciated.

    • John,

      General stuff would be hip mobility (hip flexor stretches – psoas, iliacus, and rectus femorus), and spinal stability (planks, bird-dgs, side-planks, glute bridges – anything to “stiffen” the core and keep the spine locked).

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