Glute activation is one of the single most important factors that determines athletic performance. So how do we achieve peak glute activation to be able to perform at the highest level? It’s important to first understand the anatomy and function of the entire posterior chain.
What Is The Posterior Chain?
The posterior chain is the group of muscles that includes but is not limited to the erector spinae (back muscles), gluteus maximus, medius and minimus (glutes), the biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus (hamstrings), and the gastrocnemius and soleus (your calf muscles). The hamstrings are important because they cross two major joints that are involved in all athletic movements – the hip and the knee. The hamstrings muscles all work to flex the knee and the biceps femoris additionally helps with hip extension. Practically speaking for athletes, the hamstrings are extremely important for deceleration and stopping quickly to be able to make cuts. So what makes your glutes stand out?
The glutes allow for hip extension and hyperextension, hip abduction (lateral movement of the leg), external rotation (giving you the ability to turn your feet out), help to prevent valgus collapse, and help to stop the spine from too much extension or flexion. The problem is, for most athletes, the glutes are inactive. This is most often due to tight hip flexors and tight hamstrings. How do we solve this problem?
The Dynamic Warm-Up
I hear too often about young teams and athletes that do not even warm up in the first place. Or I’ll see a warm-up in which static stretching is being performed before a game. Long gone are the days of reaching down to try to touch your toes and holding for 15-20 seconds and repeating the same protocol for other muscle groups. This type of warm-up is detrimental to an athlete’s performance! A 2014 study in the National Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research showed that static stretching reduced explosive strength and performance for up to 24 hours after the stretching was performed. However, with the group that performed dynamic stretching, the positive effects of the warm-up actually lasted for up to 24 hours.1
Your warm-up can make or break your athletic performance and it is paramount for athletes to be warming up properly, effectively, and efficiently. So what constitutes a good dynamic warm-up? A good dynamic warm-up has four phases – Inhibition, Lengthening, Activation, and Integration. This is done through a combination of Self-Myofascial Release, Foam Rolling, Dynamic Stretching, Activation Exercises, and finally Sport Specific Movements.
When I was training for NFL Combines in 2014 and 2015, I learned a lot about glute activation and how to warm-up properly. It made a world of difference in my performance on the field. Below you will find the warm-up I used and still use to get my glutes fired up and primed for peak performance. This is something all athletes should be incorporating before practices, games, and workouts. Not only does it get you ready to play at a high level, it helps to reinforce proper movement patterns as well. But perhaps most importantly, this warm-up will help to reduce injury risk significantly. This warm-up can really be used by anyone and is not exclusive to athletes – the only difference would be that a non-athlete would not have to perform the Integration or Sport Specific portion of the warm-up.
PRIMED Warm-Up Routine
Self Myofascial Release
Lacrosse Ball to Glutes – 30 seconds each glute
Lacrosse Ball to Plantar Fascia – 30 seconds each foot
Hamstrings – 30 seconds
IT Band – 30 seconds
Quadriceps – 30 seconds
Calves – 30 seconds
Mid Back – 30 seconds
Walking RDLs – 10 repetitions
Walking Lunges with Overhead Reach – 10 repetitions
Reverse Lunges with Twist – 10 repetitions
Full Squats – 10 repetitions
Side Lunges – 10 repetitions
Walking Quad Stretch with Overhead Reach – 10 repetitions
Walking Tin Man – 10 repetitions
Glute Bridges (with half foam roller between knees) – 10 repetitions
Single Leg Bridges – 5 repetitions each leg
Side-Lying Clams (with light to medium resistance band) – 10 repetitions each side
Bird Dogs – 10 repetitions each leg
Fire Hydrants – 10 repetitions each leg
Quadruped Hip Extension – 5 repetitions each leg (5 reps straight leg, 5 reps with knee bent)
High Knees – 20 yards x 2
Butt Kicks – 20 yards x 2
Carioca – 20 yards x 2
Lateral Slides – 20 yards x 2
Skips for Height – 20 yards x 2
Sport-Specific Warm-Up (e.g. Basketball – Lay-Up Lines, Dribbling, Footwork Drills)
Dominate the Competition!
Give it a shot and see how much better you feel when you play your given sport. Your glutes will be fired up, your performance will improve and your injury risk will decrease significantly! The Spine and Health Center of Montvale will soon be releasing a product with an exercise manual that will go into even more detail about warming-up, cooling down, and nutrition as well as giving you the tools needed to do so. Stay tuned. For more information, you can email email@example.com.
- Haddad M, Dridi A, Chtara M, et al. Static Stretching Can Impair Explosive Performance for At Least 24 Hours. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 2014;28(1):140–146.
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© The Spine and Health Center of Montvale 2016