I am passionate about health and fitness in general – but I pretty much always start my training with clients from one place – posture. Sort that out and mobility issues, lower back pain, painful joints, shoulder tension – so many areas can be improved upon. Little did I know that as soon as posture became a primary focus I would start to spend my working time talking to people nearly constantly about their bottom. Yes I’m a bottom obsessive and when it comes to good movement and great posture it really is all about that bass.
The bottom is a big muscle (no that’s not a judgement call – it’s a big muscle on anybody!), and so it should be for a reason. Your bottom, along with your hamstrings should be your primary movement chain. They help to propel the leg forward when walking, running, straighten the skeleton when standing up and align your pelvis correctly. They should be strong and powerful. All too often however the bottom (or gluteals) are ineffective and underperform. This can be for a variety of reasons but it usually boils down to a few.
Lack of use – if your day job involves sitting at a desk chances are your bottom is woefully underused as anything other than a cushion. If your commute to and from work involves sitting down it gets worse and if when you get home you crash out on the sofa your poor bottom doesn’t stand a chance. It may sound cliché but it is true with muscles that if you don’t use it you lose it!
Dominant muscle groups stealing your bottom’s thunder – It may be that your hips are tight from sitting all day. If this is the case they can pull your pelvis into a forward tilt. This requires your abdominals to stretch out and become ineffective (goodbye hopes of a flat tummy or six pack) and your bottom too is stretched over a greater area lessening its chances of use. Your lower back starts taking over your bottom’s job and hey presto you have a vicious cycle of underuse of your abs and glutes and overuse of your hips and lower back. This is also a primary reason for lower back pain.
So what can you do?
The best approach is two-fold.
Stretch your hips out. Using a mat or cushion bring yourself into kneeling lunge. Make sure your weight is even between the legs and tighten the bottom cheek of the rear foot. Pull your abs in to prevent over flexing through the spine and compressing the lower back. Hold for a minimum of 30 seconds.
Squat, squat and squat some more. I’m a big fan of the squat and done correctly it gets your bottom and whole extensor muscle chain working. For minimum impact or to ensure good technique you can start by squatting to a chair or bench. Keep your weight on your heels all time (this is massively important – helps to drive the movement from your bottom and prevent your body weight going through you knees). Sit down on the seat keeping your back as straight as possible – but don’t force the movement. Chances are you sit down and stand up all day without noticing it so keep your heels grounded and simply do that. When you stand up make sure your heels stay on the ground and try and drive the movement from the bottom, finishing the movement with a little bottom squeeze at the top. Repeat ad nauseum!