Meghan Trainor's billboard hit speaks about our culture's obsession with that bass. Call it your booty, dierrier, buttox, cakes, posterior, backside, or whatever name you have for your glutes; it's one of the strongest and most important muscle groups in the body. In short, good glutes are a great thing.
Get to Know Your Bass!
In order to fully understand how important the glutes actually are, one must know their function
and structure. There are 3 different gluteus muscles, simply differentiated as the minimus, medius, and maximus. The minimus is the smallest, as the name implies, and hugs the bones of the hip girdle. This location leads it's primary function to be abduction, medial rotation of the hip, as well as tilting the pelvis when walking. The medius is a bit larger, overlays the minimus, and abstractly resembles butterfly wings. The medius' size lends it to the same function as the minimus, but it's origin and insertion points make it much more powerful. The maximus is the muscle you actually see and overlays the other two smaller gluteal muscles. It's function is different from the others, in fact it extends the hip, and laterally rotates the hip instead of medially. All three muscles are fed by the nerves originating at the fifth lumbar vertebrae and the first spinal vertebrae in the sacrum. The only difference is that the minimus and medius are innervated by the fourth lumbar vertebrae while the glute max is innervated by the S2 vertebrae.
No Bass? Big Problem.
So many muscular imbalances, overuse injuries, and chronic pain just so happen to be attributed to weak gluteus muscles. The average American generally doesn't even think of their glutes as muscles; most think it's just a cushion leading to a deflated bass. With a proper exercise
program one can improve running gait, balance out muscular dominance, improve proprioception, stabilize the lumbo-pelvic region, and increase abdominal function.
Oddly enough the path to injury, and imbalance is a short one. Desk jobs combined with sedentary home lives start the cycle by creating hyper dominant hip flexors and the glutes begin to become less active. Rather than pull the hips into extension to compensate they just let the hip flexors do their own thing.
Losing the Rhythm
Dysfunctional motor control effects the motor neurons themselves, changing the timing of muscle activation, and relaxation during voluntary movement (a symptom of neurophysiological spasticity). During a voluntary movement such as running, the sequence of muscles firing determines the cycle/rhythm of the motion itself. If you switch the pattern of the muscle sequence, the muscles end up not able to do the secondary, tertiary, and in some cases primary functions. When this system fails too often, stiff-leg gait, plantar fasciitis, patella tracking issues, and various other problems may develop from operating in this altered pattern.
In the case of the glutes, it's the extension, and abduction of the hips that is totally out of sequence creating problems in the run gait. Inactive glutes accompany many common chronic aches and pains stemming from the lumbar spine down to the toes. The abdominal floor sits on top of the pelvic (hip) girdle. Any changes in pelvic angle based on muscular inbalance will also affect abdominal function.
Through hard work, previously dysfunctional muscular systems can become "normal" again. Here are some exercises to help you work through the dysfunction:
Sit to Stand Squats: The squat for instance, has been a staple of strengthening programs since the creation of martial arts. What most don't realize though is that the hamstrings, and glutes are a key component to a great squat as well.
Hip Bridges: The pull of the glutes brings the hips into extension, and upright posture to counteract the flexion created by the quads and hip flexors. The goal in this sequence is balance out the anterior, and posterior kinetic chains to work one whole unit.
Your gluteus muscles will need a lot of strengthening to undo the damage that your lifestyle has caused. Positive gains take time. If you think about how long you've been operating in your current manner, decades in many cases, you'll realize it will be a slow process returning the body to optimal functionality. Stay persistant and keep it "all about the bass".
Marion "Ari" Davis is a AAHFRP Certified Post Rehab Conditioning Specialist and ACSM Certified Personal Fitness Trainer.