Surviving Summit: Learn to love your butt with workouts for hikers, bikers
June 6, 2016
Do you want to hike farther? Jump higher? Pedal faster? Last longer on a powder run? Avoid back pain? Prevent injury?
The list goes on — and it all comes back to your butt. Your glutes are the largest and most powerful muscles in your body, but they're also one of the most underused muscle groups.
Pain in the back
Yes, tighter buns will look better in those pants, but a fit derrière is also important for reducing your risk of injury when you're active and even when you aren't. Unfortunately, a weak and achy low back is far too common and not many people realize how much strengthening your glutes can help. It's important to build these muscles to stabilize our hip joints, so the lower back doesn't overcompensate. This is because other muscles tend to pick up the slack when another group is weak, which makes them disproportionately stronger, and, therefore can cause imbalances. Inactive glutes can also cause problems in your knees. Common injuries like runner's knee and iliotibial (IT) band syndrome are caused when the glutes are not activated and other muscles are overworked, which leads to excessive stress in your under-fired muscles and joints.
If it sounds like your glutes have been hibernating for a while, it's time to wake them up. Everyone wants a better butt, no buts about it!
Exercises for your glutes
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A robust rump will surely improve your ability for recreational activities. Who doesn't want to increase speed and strength as the summer approaches?
Simple exercises can help you strengthen your muscles and improve your stamina to make your activities more enjoyable. Cardio won't work your butt as much as weights will, and all you need to do is repeat these exercises two times a week. (Make sure to increase the weight or repetitions in time, and be sure to warm up, cool down and stretch after all of these exercises. Focus on form over speed and number of reps.)
So let's get off your chair and fire up those underactive glutes with some of the best butt-activating exercises: single leg bridge lifts, step-ups, hip thrusts and deadlifts.
Single-leg bridge lifts
1. Lie on your back with your arms by your side, your left leg bent and foot flat, and your right leg raised in the air.
2. Execute the movement by driving through your left heel and raising your glutes off the ground while keeping your knee in line with your toes.
3. Extend as far as possible, pause and return to the starting position.
4. Repeat 10-25 times, and then switch to the other leg.
1. Stand in front of a step or chair and place your right leg on top of it.
2. Press through your right heel to a standing position while your left leg rises up and then returns back to the ground. Make sure you use your leg on the step to do most of the work instead of pushing off with the leg on the ground.
3. Repeat 20-30 times, and then switch to the left leg. For an advanced option, hold dumbbells during the exercise.
Sounds rather interesting, I know, but this might be one of the best glute development exercises!
1. Start by resting your upper back on a bench or stability ball and your feet flat on the ground. This exercise can be done with just your bodyweight or, for an advanced option, place a dumbbell or barbell on your hips.
2. In a fluid motion, contract your glutes to slowly lift your hips as high as possible while maintaining a neutral spine.
3. Lower with control and repeat 10-20 times. Work to completing 1-2 more sets.
There are a variety of ways to do a deadlift, but we'll start with the basics.
1. Begin with your feet placed hip-width apart.
2. Hold a set of dumbbells in front of your legs with your palms and weights facing forward. Start with no weight or light weights until you get your form down. It is very important to make sure you have a flat back the entire time.
3. Hinge at the hips as you bend your legs and lower down to a squat position with a straight back, then slowly lift (leading with your chest) to rise to standing.
4. Repeat 8-15 times and work to completing 1-2 more sets.
Don't forget to stretch
I think most of us can admit that we sit entirely too much. This causes us to have tight and shortened muscles through our hip flexors and hamstrings, which can inhibit the glutes and make us very injury prone. It's important, so stretch all of the major muscles in your lower body, especially all muscles of your hip joint, using movements such as the yoga pigeon or supine figure-four stretch. I also highly suggest using a foam roller to roll out those extra-tight muscles, in particular your hip flexors.
Boost your metabolism
Still not convinced you need a firm tush? Here is yet another reason: The more muscle in your body, the higher your metabolism, and, the higher your metabolism, the more efficient your body is at burning fat. Since your glutes are the biggest muscle group in your body (consisting of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus), it only makes sense to strengthen them and significantly increase your resting metabolic rate. No more using your "slow metabolism" as an excuse for weight loss.
Julie Wilson is an ACE certified personal trainer and fitness nutritionist based in Dillon. She loves to be active in the mountains and help others with their health and fitness goals.
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