So this post should actually have been post number one because what you need to start with is inhibiting and lengthening the tight, overactive muscles!
If you want to work your butt, the first thing you have to do is relax the tight muscles.
You aren’t going to feel butt exercises in the correct places if the right muscles aren’t activated!!! And you won’t activate the right muscles if other muscles are overactive and tight!
SO what do you do?
The first thing I do before I workout is roll out.
And if I really want my butt to work, I’ve got to make sure that everything around my hips is loose.
While I’m fortunate enough to not be confined to a desk all day, I sit enough that my hips are flexed for a good portion of the day.
That means they are tight. And tight hips can lead to low back pain. They can also restrict your glutes from really activating during exercise.
If your glutes don’t activate during leg movements, you are going to use your low back, have inefficient movement patterns, not lift as much AND risk injury. You are also going to miss out on working one of the biggest muscles in your body!
SO roll our your hips before you begin!
While a foam roller is great, I find any sort of ball to be WAY better at getting into those trigger points around your hips.
I prefer a tennis ball, trigger point ball or lacrosse ball. I find the golf ball to be too small.
If you are just starting out, you may want to invest in one of the foam blue balls that are a little bigger and a little softer. The smaller and harder the ball you use, the more you are really going to dig in.
Ok so to roll out your “hips,” and I use this term a bit loosely, my three favorite moves are:
- The Hip U – So in this move you start by digging out the fleshy part of your butt. Literally sit on the ball with it under one butt cheek. Roll it around until you find a sore spot. Hold it on that sore spot and remember to breathe. You can also lift and lower the leg to help get deeper into the muscle. As you roll out your butt cheek, move the ball up to your low back. Find any trigger points there and hold for a bit. Then make an arc over the hip bone once you dig out your butt and low back. Hit your side butt, or glute medius. This is usually very tight on people. Again hold as you find trigger points. Then roll the ball to the front of your hip. Dig out the TFL and all the muscles right around that hip bone. Remember to HOLD if you find a sore spot…also remember to breathe! So that is the U over the hip
- Ab release – So most of the time we go for the exact spot where we “feel” pain. So we roll out our low backs if we feel pain when the cause of the pain may actually be somewhere else…like our tight hip flexors! BUT that being said that doesn’t mean we need to target the muscles that insert right below our hips. A hip flexor muscles actually connects up at a point in our spine! Which can mean that by placing a ball in your abs by your belly button and relaxing over it, you can actually help release your hip flexors! So try it…get a ball (and if you have a small ball you may need to put it on a trigger point block to really get it to dig in, but lay over the ball and relax. The ball should be to the side of your belly button and above the hip.
- The peanut – So one of my absolute favorite foam rolling tools is what I call the peanut. It is two tennis balls tapped together. They are perfect to use on the area around your spine. I like to hit my lower (and upper back for that matter) with these two balls. You can really get in and around your SI joint and then up into your low and mid-back. You can even target the spot where you psoas connect up in your spine.
So while these aren’t the only moves to use and you may also want to hit your adductors, calves and chest (other common tight muscle groups) these three moves are a great place to start!
After foam rolling, you will then want to do some dynamic stretches for these muscles before you begin your workout.
Notice I said DYNAMIC. Save the static stretching till afterwards!
A dynamic stretch is a stretch that you don’t hold for a long period of time, but actually move through (not bouncing though). A static stretch is one you hold for about 30 seconds or so. A static stretch is great for flexibility BUT has been show to reduce power during the workout.
So in an effort to increase mobility without any strength or power lost, we will use only dynamic stretches BEFORE exercise.
Here are some great moves I use to open up my hip area:
- Leg swings – You can do these swinging your legs forward or back or side to side. Both ways open up your hips. Try to increase the range of your swing without leaning your upper body forward and back. It is best to hold a wall when doing these.
- Hurdles – These are a variation of the leg swing. You can do these going forward or backwards (or BOTH!). What you do is bend your knee and swing your hip as if stepping over a hurdle. Alternate sides. Do about 10 per side.
- Simple kneeling hip stretch – So the basic stretch for your hip and even your quad is the kneeling hip stretch. Kneel on your right knee with your left leg bent to 90 degrees in front. You can make this dynamic by stretch by pushing the hip forward and then relaxing back. You can also add in a reach overhead and across. So if your left knee is forward, your right arm is going to lift up overhead and across. Then you will relax back down. You can also do a rotational stretch, so rotating over the front knee. To increase this stretch down your quad, you can also pull in the foot of the knee that is down and then release. By pulling the foot of the knee that is down up toward your butt, you will bring the stretch lower in your quad.
- Lying glute stretch – Lay on your back with your right knee bent and foot flat on the ground. Cross the left ankle over the right knee. Then grab behind either your right hamstring or in front of your right shin. Pull the right leg with the left foot across it unto your chest and then release. You should feel that in your glute. This stretch will make sure you are loose all around the hip joint! (I love doing the pigeon pose after my workouts as my static stretch!)
- Spider stretch – So this stretch is great to open up the hips. It can get your groin and your hamstrings and even calves too! So to do this stretch step one leg forward in a lunge. If this is too much you can put your knee on the ground. So if you lunge your right leg forward, you will then drop your right elbow right into your instep. Then rock back and sit on your other heal and straighten that forward leg to stretch the hamstring. Then rock back forward and drop your elbow again. Do about 10 each side moving smoothly through the movement.
- 360 Lunges – One of my favorite dynamic moves to warm up the hips is the lunge. BUT I don’t just use the forward lunge…I lunge in a few different angles. One lunge out front. Maybe one front at an angle. One out to the side. One opening up back. I do those four lunges on each side to create a 360 circle!
These stretches and even the foam rolling moves aren’t the only ones you can do. I didn’t even really get into static stretching…BUT the point is these are good ones to start with and are very efficient ways to target all the muscles in and around the hips.
So between the foam rolling and stretches, your hips should be loose and ready to let your butt be activated!
Check back for Part 3 when we discuss glute activation exercises to use in your warm up!
P.S. I will add more photos! Sorry for these few that I managed to quickly take a few weeks ago after a workout!