ass glute activation.
A great coach once told me to squeeze my glutes at every opportunity I had. This meant at the top of a swing; out of the hole in a squat; walking up stairs; anything and everything! Over head pressing; squeeze the glutes. Ballistic snatches; squeeze the glutes. Seriously, every opportunity.
That being said, often times people confuse glute activation for quad activation. I honestly have no idea why, but this happens all the time. It is distinctly noticeable during the top of a kettlebell swing. Remember, the swing is a ballistic movement driven from the hips. Proper posterior chain activation is required and the glutes are a part of that chain. If you rely solely on the quads for this- you have a squatty swing.
Back on point. I have attached 2 pictures showing the different locations of the glutes and quads.
The best analogy for glute activation via a client, is to have a hungry butt monster. This always makes us snicker but really- this is a great analogy. Point here is, is to try to make your butt eat your shorts (or lululemon for you ladies) and give yourself a wedgie. The bigger the wedgie the more glute activation, the better.
One reason people may have a hard time with glute activation is something called ‘glute amnesia.’ This also sounds a little on the funny side, especially if you told a friend this is what you were suffering from. However this can be a very serious issue. Sadly, if you sit at a desk all day this may actually be more the norm. Clever as that phrase may be, it was originally coined by Dr. Stuart McGill. Not by yours truly.
Long winded technical explanation made short; there is a chain of muscles that runs up and down the back (posterior) of the body. Think of these muscles as a link in a chain. Each individual link influences other links it touches and some that it is nowhere near. Why- well because that is just how the body works.
When one of these links doesn’t work right, it causes dysfunction in other areas of the chain. In this case we are referring to the ‘glute’ link.
If trying to give yourself a wedgie isn’t a great cue or it doesn’t seem to work for you try another. This works with almost all clients to better understand where the glutes are and how to activate them. Simply place your hands on your back pockets. Now, make those muscles under your hands tight as a rock. It may take a second to figure it out but you eventually will contract those glutes, even for a second. Keep working at it. Eventually you will not need the hand to muscle connection in order to stimulate the contraction. Try doing it without the hands and see how you do. Then contract the glutes every opportunity you get. This drill has worked better for my clients then any foam rolling or soft tissue exercise. Try it.
The quads simply described are the front part of your thighs. There are several muscles that make up the quads and they are primarily responsible for all extension at the knee. Simply- sit down and extend your legs. Quad activation. Knowing that the quad is responsible for extension at the knee, it is also responsible for hyper-extension at the knee. If while standing up you over activate the quad muscles you can pull the knee into a state of hyper-extention. This is bad. This also is a reason why we need proper glute activation.
Now that we know the quad is responsible for extension at the knee we can safely say that the quads also play a very important part in the squat pattern. While that is great when squatting, it is not the case when hinging (performing a kettlebell swing.) Read above where I talked about proper posterior chain activation.
There is a time to squeeze and activate the quads. It is not during the lock-out phase when you should be squeezing your glutes.
Back to the glutes. Diminished glute activation tends to happen over time under normal conditions. Of course this is relative to activity. Sitting and or standing for long periods of time are the key contributors. They key problems discussed here also contribute to tight hip-flexors through reciprocal inhibition. Remember the link in the chain analogy? This is it. Tight hip-flexors are a problem in themselves. They are also just one more area of concern when it comes to glute amnesia.
Lucky for all of us glute activation is not difficult and easily restored. Breaking up sedimentary periods in the day and performing the basic drill listed above expedite the correction of the issue. Normally I will list 2-3 alternatives for a corrective. However, these 2 steps are hands down the easiest and most time efficient way my clients have overcome poor glute activation.
Taking the time to break up the apathetic rest periods in our day as well as the 30 seconds to play grab-ass with ourselves is the more difficult part. This is a very short and simple way to bring the glutes back online. It is well worth the time.