Glute Activation for Peak Performance

by Tom Kokosinski

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.

glute activation athletes

PRIMED Warm-Up Routine


Self Myofascial Release

Lacrosse Ball to Glutes – 30 seconds each glute
Lacrosse Ball to Plantar Fascia – 30 seconds each foot

Foam Rolling

Hamstrings – 30 seconds
IT Band – 30 seconds
Quadriceps – 30 seconds
Calves – 30 seconds
Mid Back – 30 seconds

Dynamic Stretching

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 Activation

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)

Integration

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 info@thespineandhealthcenter.com.

References

  1. 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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Don’t Let The Light Fluffy Snow Fool You While Shoveling! Tips To Not Injure Your Back:

Shoveling Snow, low back pain, injury, herniated disc, sprain, strain

   Even know the snow looks light and fluffy out there, don’t let that fool you when shoveling.  Sometimes it is not the weight of the snow so much as the repetitive movements of shoveling.  This light, fluffy snow is better than the heavy, wet snow, but it can still cause injury.  Here are a few tips to help prevent an injury:

1.  Take your time – if you are anything like me you want to complete the job ask quickly as possible.  However, in the case of shoveling snow, this is a recipe for disaster.  The key is to take your time, slow and steady wins the race (winning is not injuring your back).

2. Take breaks frequently – most people don’t realize how much energy they are expending when they are shoveling.  When you do take that break, you are usually very fatigued.  The key here is to take breaks every certain amount of minutes, for example every 5 minutes.  Set a timer on your watch or phone.  This is will allow your body to recover before you continue again.

3. Bend at the knees and hips – and lift the weight with your legs as you all know you should.  Do not use your back to lift because that is the easiest way to “blow out your back”.  The small muscles of your back were never designed for lifting and carrying, it is actually the large muscles of your hips and legs that were designed to do the heavy lifting.

4. Maintain a neutral spine – what does that mean?  Most people when they lift and carry flex their spine (rounding of the back).  This puts tremendous pressure on the spine and discs which are the cushions in between the bones of your spine.  It is the easiest way to injure your back because you are applying abnormal stress to parts of the spine which can’t handle that type of stress.  To stay in a neutral spine, you want to flatten your back or even put it in a very slight arch.  This will put the weight on the correct part of your spine and minimize your potential for injury.

5. Do not reach – the last thing you should do is try to over reach to get to an area.  This creates a “long lever” which can be harmful.  When reaching you put excess pressure with less support which can lead to injury.

6. Do not hold you breath – When you hold your breath while exerting you increase the pressure in your body, and everyone knows that we don’t work well under pressure!!!  Breathing is key for so many reasons.  It helps bring oxygen to your muscles to supply them with the energy they need to perform the tasks you are asking them to accomplish.  It also prevents from over-exertion injuries which can prevent things like light-headedness and headaches.

The most common injuries are sprains and strains of the low back, herniated discs and pinched nerves.  You can prevent these injuries by following these tips.  The cold is another reason why so many people hurt themselves while shoveling.  When your body is cold, the muscles are tight and less elastic and less flexible.  When you put stress on a cold, tight muscle it is much easier to injure.  Another way to prevent injury while shoveling is by warming up and more importantly staying warm.  Drinks lots of water to keep your body hydrated as well.  Please use these tips wen getting out there to shovel.  If you have any questions you can always contact us at the office and we can provide you with even more information to help you with an injury free winter!