Gluteus Muscles are Important Muscles of The Hips
The glutes are important muscles of the hips. They set the foundation for proper pelvic alignment and they promote the key movements of hip extension and external rotation.
How Can My Gluts Be Weak – I am Active?
In my practice, I see clients that have poor gluteal strength. They do not know their gluteus muscles are weak of course, but I know because it is often manifested as hip or back pain. When the gluteal muscles get weak from sedentary lifestyles or even just from not engaging them often enough in their everyday active lives, they become weak. I’ll often hear clients say, I can walk all day long my gluts must be strong. But are they? Regular walking ( not up a steep incline) does little to engage these big powerful muscles fully. The range of motion of the gluteus minimus and gluteus maximus during flat walking is very limited.
Strong Derriere Puts Less Impact on Lower Back/Outer Hips
The key importance of implementing gluteal workouts is more than just to improve body shape ( although this is valid too). Rather strong derriere muscles allow for less impact on the other structures of the body that tend to give us pain – namely the hips and the lower back.
If you are having lower back and hip pain, consider that in addition to doing the “normal exercises” we are told to do such as strengthening the abdominal areas to support the back better, and or work on lower back strengtheners to decrease your pain, it is my recommendation to strengthen your gluteus muscles as well. In fact so important are the gluteal muscles in decreasing hip and back pain that in my practice I target your bottom first when time becomes limited.
To get the most out of your glute workouts, be sure to start progressively and with the correct body mechanics. Begin with double leg exercises advancing to single leg exercises shown below, then progress to the more advanced double legged and single legged power exercises as indicated below. Do 2 -3 sets of each exercise focusing on 10 -15 reps before adding weights. Keep in mind that going 2-5 reps beyond fatigue is absolutely critical to increasing the strength of a muscle.
Back Extension on Bench or Ball
Place the upper back on a weight bench and place a barbell on top of the hips. Start with a light weight at first. Ground both feet solidly into the floor and extend the hips upward to lift the bar up, stopping when the hips reach full extension (do not arch the back). Squeeze the glutes and pause at the top for a second or two before setting the hips back down on the ground. This can also be done on a big ball placing calves on the ball and raising your bottom and squeezing. Use the ball method if the bench feels less comfortable. Begin with no weight if you are new to the exercise.
Single Leg Sit To Stand
Stand with the backs of the legs near a weight bench. Place hands to side away from chest. Lift the left leg off the floor and balance on the right foot. Lower yourself down until you feel your seat touch the bench briefly and then return to standing using the right leg only. Repeat on the opposite foot and alternate each leg until you complete the repetitions. Add weight by holding to sides of body as body becomes accustomed.
Step Up Power Exercise
10 -15 repetitions
Hold a dumbbell or no weight at all to sides of body. Step up onto a weight bench with the right foot, making sure to stand up by completely opening the hips, and then step down with the right foot. Switch feet, so that the next step-up begins with the left foot. Continue to alternate the feet to complete the repetitions. Progress to adding weight.
Holiday Weight Gain: Knowledge vs. Implementation
During the holidays, people are aware of what they should or shouldn’t be eating, and aware of how much simply snacking on alternative healthy snacks can make a difference in holiday weight gain. But, few make the move to implement this practice.
When people are time constricted, in convivial carefree spirits, and there are festive foods and drinks all around, it can take a huge amount of will power and motivation not to over indulge and gain weight.
Here’s the thing: food and drink tips are obsolete if we cannot implement them. What to do? Here is a 3 step approach that is practical and smart.
- Develop a new perspective. The holiday season is no time to expect herculean will power. Accept that this time of year you are at a high risk for holiday weight gain and for not maintaining your fitness goals. Be realistic. Have a plan but do not be too hard on yourself.
- Develop a plan for weight maintenance. Ironically we have a plan for most everything in our lives but when it comes to health maintenance we expect a healthy weight should come naturally. Dieting is outdated thinking so forget about super low calorie restriction as research shows many people end up increasing their body mass index even further.
- Develop an off course plan. Many people are stuck in the self berating system of punishment for overindulgence or poor eating practices. They may engage in silly behaviors such as longer and more difficult workouts, as well as severely restricted daily calories. Do the opposite. A few days of poor eating and drinking practices calls for a few days of pampering ourselves. It is difficult on the mind, body, and soul to feel out of control of our normal routines, so why would we punish ourselves further? My off course plan: One day of low intensity exercise such as walking, biking or strolling outdoors. Then, also do the following:
- Lots of water including my favorite Pellegrino mineral water.
- Reading time that gets me thinking forward again.
- A warm bath just prior to bed and before an early 6 pm dinner.
- Early to bed and lots of rest.
My Personal Plan for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain:
- Make a weekly schedule of parties/dinners attending.
- Plan on exercising longer the day of the event. I use this technique not as a calorie burner but as a confidence builder. I am less apt to eat and drink poorly if I feel good about myself. Exercise is a confidence builder and keeps me centered.
- Schedule tennis or another activity with a friend the morning after an event. I disappoint myself if I feel I played poorly due to poor eating/drinking habits. For me competition is a huge motivator to eat and drink modestly
- Lastly, I consistently ask myself what I want to feel like when the holidays are over. I never want to feel I am beginning over. I understand how food and drink overindulgence can change life’s outlook on life, and I know there is a direct correlation between what I eat and drink and how I feel about life. It makes all the difference.
- If I overindulge I am quick to get right back to my regular routine and even throw in a little self pampering. Research shows that people who quickly get back to their dietary routines and exercise are the most successful at maintaining their health and their weight. See step 3 below.
Considering dietary tips to prevent weight gain during the holidays is important. But what is more important is gaining a healthy lifelong perspective and having a few individualized tactics to help you along during “high risk” times such as the holiday season. Consider spending time during the holidays to find your own motivation and create an individualized plan of health and happiness for you.