6 Week Programme: Week 3 - Glutes & Back
Here is a taster of what is in store for Week 3, Tuesday 21st April, book here to join me.
It is so important that our glutes are strong and supportive as they help us walk, sit and stand. The glute muscles are made up of: gluteus maximus, medias and minimus. The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body, it attaches to the side of the sacrum (base of spine) and femur (thigh bone). The gluteus medias is located partway under the gluteus maximus; it connects the ilium (hip bone) to the side of the upper femur - your main ‘side-stepping’ muscle. Gluteus minimums is located under the gluteus medius and enables circular movements with your thigh. These three muscles, along with other smaller supporting muscles, are the base of support for the hips and pelvis. They bring stability to the femur in your hip socket, rotate the femur internally and externally, and allow your leg to draw backwards.
Problems can arise when we either under or over utilise the glutes. Many underuse this muscle group, for example if you spend a lot of time sat down, when standing up the glutes don’t fire as they should, in order for hip extension to happen back muscles are used instead, which can lead to a sore back. We also need be to mindful in our yoga practice for example if the glutes aren’t firing in a squat, when we come out of the squat the quads are active instead, this can lead to large quads and weak hamstrings. On the flip side, we need to be mindful that the glutes can be overused, for example if clenching too hard in a certain poses such as wheel, or when running. Both situations can affect the range of motion in the sacrum and hips, leading to instability or pain.
In yoga we can perform poses to activate the glutes, by doing this on the mat, we are helping remind our brain about these muscles for when we're off the mat too. One of these poses is high lunge:
- Start in Downward Facing Dog
- Step right foot between hands, align knee over heel, whilst keeping left leg strong
- Raise torso upright, then sweep arms up, palms facing in
- Engage glute on left side
- Lengthen tailbone towards the ground, be mindful of lower back, do not overarch
- Reach back through left heel
- Don’t press ribs forward, draw them down and into torso, hold for 5 breaths
- Step left foot up to meet right
- Repeat on the opposite side, starting in Downward Facing Dog
Strength and flexibility in your spine is critical, we perform a wide range of movement every day so it is essential we look after our back. Twists are an excellent way to achieve both strength and flexibility. Twists can help lengthen the spine and decompress the discs – creating space between vertebrae and turning on muscles around the discs, which increases blood flow to the spinal area. This ultimately leads to oxygen reaching the spinal area which can help fight pain and act as an anti-inflammatory. Before beginning to twist, it’s important to remember to engage the stabilising muscles for the pose e.g. glutes in a lunge, and understand the aim is not to over twist - don’t force it. See below a demonstration of a great supine twist we often do at the end of class:
- Lie down on mat, with soles of feet on the ground, knees bent
- Arms come out to T shape or cactus arms
- Using your core strength slowly lower both knees to the right side, if the neck feels ok we can take gaze over the left shoulder
- Keep both shoulder blades on the mat and relax legs and feet
- Stay here for 5 deep breathes then engage core and bring legs back to centre
- Repeat on the opposite site
Controlled movement in the spine for example cat and cow pose can help move synovial fluid up and down the spine, helping to lubricate the joints.
Now let’s shift the focus from the spine to the back muscles. The largest muscle in the back is the latissimus dorsi (lats), which connect your upper arms to your lower back, it’s a large broad, flat sheet of muscle. Learning to loosen tight lats can help with range of motion when lifting arms above your head. We will do an exercise in class to test how tight your lats are. The erector spinae are a powerful group of muscles that extend on each side of the spinal column from the skull to the pelvic region, with the job to keep the spine upright. Poses such as bow pose can strengthen this muscle group and seated forward fold can lengthen. Tight muscles can lead to an overly curved lumbar spine, leading to a forward pelvic tilt, negatively impacting posture.
As we have learnt over the past couple of classes, back pain could be caused by a number of things, for example weak hamstrings, lack of arch in the foot or tight quads. So if we do have back pain it’s important to consider the whole body when looking for the cause.
Join me on Tuesday 21st April for the full class, book here.
Sources used to help create this blog:
Note: Please ensure you warm up before completing activities listed above; by engaging in these activities you do so at your own risk.