Great Glutes: Building a Strong Spine From the Bottom Up
By Dr. Molly Casey
The health and optimal function of your spine is dependent upon help from other muscle groups and structures. The gluteal muscles support your spine and lower extremity function in the primary way as stabilizers. When the gluteal muscles are weak or not functioning optimally, both the spine and lower extremities can give you more problems than not. So create and keep strong glutes to increase health and function and decrease pain and irritation.
The gluteal muscle group is comprised of three muscles, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. All three muscles play a role in stabilization; when they’re weak, they can cause pain and dysfunction in the low back, hip and knee. Prolonged sitting and a sedentary lifestyle certainly contribute to weak glutes.
Glutes are responsible for proper movement and function of the hip and thigh. Standing up from a seated position, climbing stairs, and staying stable in a straight up position are all functions of the gluteal muscles. They propel the body forward and back, side to side, while keeping balance and remaining stable.
Signs that you may have weak gluteal muscle groups are low back pain, hard to stand on one foot, staying strong and stable, knee pain, or abnormal gait (walking funny). Quick pointer here: most people in this day and age are more likely to have weak glutes purely because of the common American lifestyle.
Exercises to Strengthen the Glutes
Addressing the health and proper function of the glutes is not a hard undertaking. The exercises are simple, but simplicity does not mean ineffective; however, they require effort and consistency. These three exercises will not wipe you out of energy, but will stimulate and activate the glute muscles that frequently fall asleep and weaken. As you activate the muscles they’ll increase and improve in their level of functioning.
Hip extensions - Stand behind a regular dining room or kitchen table chair. Make sure to have your shoulders, hips, knees, and toes squared off, facing the back of the chair. Take the right leg and bring it backwards toward the wall behind you. Keep the knee and leg straight and in line with the hip. Hold for five to seven seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat 10 times and then perform with the left side. Watch an illustration here.
Glute bridges - Lie on your back, arms flat beside you, palms down. Bend your knees, place your feet flat on the floor. Tighten your core muscles and raise your buttocks to create a straight line from the top of your knees to/through your shoulders. Think of it as lifting your glutes to create a bridge. The point is to remain stable without any sagging or swaying. Hold this for five to 10 seconds and release. Repeat. Check out this video here; it will walk you through the process. To add an advanced component, you can raise one leg outstretched before beginning the bridge, then raise the glutes performing and remaining stable on one leg.
Clam shell - Lay on your side with your knees stacked on each other and bent at a 45-degree angle. Rest your head on the lower hand and use the upper to stabilize yourself so you don’t rock back and forth. Tighten your core by sucking your belly button in towards your spine and hold. Keeping your feet touching, raise the top knee up as high as you can without shifting your pelvis or hips. Don’t move your lower leg at all. Pause and hold at the top for three to five seconds. Bring the knee back to the starting position and repeat 20 times. Flip and perform on the other side. To get you started, watch this tutorial here.
Chiropractic and the Glutes
Like every single cell, organ, tissue and system in your body, the glutes receive information from the brain through the nervous system, the body’s communication system. And like every other structure, the glutes are able to function best when communication from, and to, the brain is optimal. The nerves that innervate or communicate with the gluteal muscles exit the spine at the lower lumbar and upper sacral levels. This means that it is wise to assure that the lower lumbar and sacrum spinal segments are moving fully through their range of motion. If you have weak glutes and are looking to improve their function, regularly get your spine checked and adjusted by a chiropractor.
Strong glutes assist in a strong spine. Strong glutes will decrease low back, hip and knee pain. Strong glutes will help your mobility and stability to keep your daily functioning levels as high as possible as you grow older and/or continue to try to maintain your recreation activities. Sedentary ways decrease proper activity and weaken the glutes. So get your glutes into The Joint Chiropractic and let the doctors help you gain a stronger spine through strengthening your glutes and ultimately improve your quality of life.
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