Sunday, December 7, 2008

Get Your Glutes to Cooperate!

Question: Hi I was reading your tip about weak glutes and glute dysfunction on one side. My left glute doesn't function as it should, when I do mule kicks or glute bridges on the left side, my hamstrings tend to take over and leads to cramps. Surprisingly, my glute medius is stronger on my right side, when I do the band walks as you mentioned, or clams, my right side is a lot easier than my left side. And I've got all the effects you talked about, from tightness in my lower back on my right side to a scapula dysfunction and can't raise my right hand fully. Do you have any idea on what I can do to get my left glute functioning up to par with the right side? Thanks for any help."

Answer: Great question. We all have a dominate side and naturally, the muscles of the dominate side are going to be stronger and "fire" quicker when called upon. Next time you take the stairs, see which leg you move first...when you take an elevator...get in the car...take a seat...if you always use the same side, chances are the muscles and nervous system are programmed to use these muscles by default. My suggestion? Perform the glute band lateral walks only on the left and immediately after the exercises use a bilateral exercise to "re-wire the system".
For instance:

Lateral walks - 10 steps to the left, go into squat or front squat - use body-weight first and as you feel the glute activate, start adding a load.

You can also, place the band at both feet and stretched shoulder-width, and squat like that. This will get the abductors working too. Meanwhile, foam roll the glutes on the left side--specifically the piriformis and from the iliac crest down. Use a tennis ball for more accuracy.

Out of the gym, I suggest you begin to be more conscious of how you walk (keep note of your dominate leg and start using the left side). Watch how you sit. Which leg do you fold over or cross? That makes a difference. Once your left glute catches up, examine your hip in a mirror. Does it hike up? Does it drop? You can then possible add in some stationary lunges or step up. I like the step up better for more focused glute work.

Also...the lateral walk is not a great indicator of glute med strength as the abductors come into play. The mule kick is a better exercise to "test" the glutes because of its isolation. The hamstring coming into play has alot to do with the fact that it is tight. Foam roll it followed by some stretching. Also, watch your range of motion during the mule kick. If you are going too high, you are taking the stress off the glutes.

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