Do you have "Gluteal Amnesia?"
PFPS (Patellofemoral pain syndrome), Iliotibial pain, Lowback pain, and Piriformis syndrome. Gluteal amnesia occurs when our body "fogets" how to properly engage the gluteal muscles -- the biggest and strongest muscle group of our body -- and this causes pain when other muscles try to compensate.
Our daily activities today doesn't really encourage proper gluteal activation. Most office workers spend 8 to 12 hours sitting and some spend long periods of time standing, which "trains" our gluteal muscles to be apathetic. Sitting for long periods (at work, while driving, watching TV, computer, etc.) tightens the hip flexors which restrains the glutes. Standing for long periods also may diminish gluteal activation when the quadriceps and hamstrings compensate for stability.
The gluteal muscles - maximus, medius, and minimus - is the powerhouse that generates propulsion (i.e, pushes your body forward when walking, running, jumping forward) and it's proper activation is the major key in helping prevent common injuries when we run.
Maximize your Gluteus Maximus
Here are some tips to make sure you keep your powerhouse working even when you're at work:
- If you sit for long hours every day, let your hip flexors breathe. Stand up - and even walk around, if you can - once in a while (at least every hour or less), to stretch and mobilize those tight muscles.
- From a seated position, try to stand up without using your arms to push yourself up. This would waken up your glutes after a long period of sitting. You can also try doing a few repetitions of this before getting your coffee during your break.
- When you're standing for long periods of time, make sure that you achieve a "neutral pelvis" and engage your core muscles. Remember the draw-in maneuver: tuck your tail bone in and draw your belly button to your spine. Squeeze your buttocks together and don't let your quads and hams do all the work.
- Proper posture plays a big role in gluteal activation. Your spine is connected to your hips which is where your glutes originate. Keep your hips square (neutral pelvis) then lengthen your spine from the hips, keeping your trunk erect whether you're sitting or standing. Slouching affects your lowback and hip placement. Also when sitting, make sure that your knees are in line with the hips (i.e, your seat is not too high or too low, which could happen in most computer chairs).
- Regularly stretch your quadriceps, hip flexor, and low back. Take the time to loosen up those muscles when you feel like you've been sitting or standing for too long.
- When you're working out doing lunges and squats, make sure you really drop your hips and bring your thighs parallel to the floor (keep your knees above your ankles, trunk erect). This position will really force your powerhouse to work!