October 21, 2020
Has anyone ever told you to “fire your glutes” during a workout? Meanwhile, you are feeling the burn in your low back, quads, and pretty much everywhere besides your glutes. There is a term that some people use called “glute amnesia.” This refers to the inability to fire your gluteal muscles. If you are dealing with “glute amnesia,” don’t fret. We have the solution!
How can you fix this “glute amnesia?”
Let’s start with a simple exercise. Lie on your back with your knees bent and bridge up by lifting your hips up into the air while keeping your feet grounded. Ask yourself “where do I feel this?” If you feel this in your low back, it’s time to readjust. You should feel a bridge mostly in your glute muscles but also in your hamstrings (muscles in the back of the thigh). To help better fire your glutes, try two things:
1. Place your feet together and turn your feet outward. Now try to squeeze your glutes and then lift into the bridge. See picture below:
2. Tilt your pelvis backward, flattening your back against the floor or mat, then squeeze your glutes to lift into the bridge. This may take some practice, but over time, you should be able to feel this bridge in your glutes and hamstrings, NOT your low back. See picture below, notice how the spine is pressed into the ground.
One particular exercise that provides for excellent activation of the gluteus maximus is the barbell hip thrust (BHT). In a recent systematic review (1), the barbell hip thrust showed greater activation of the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris (your lateral hamstring) as compared to squatting. Another interesting finding is that regardless of BHT variation, the muscle sequence starts with your gluteus maximus, the muscle we are trying to fire up! The subsequent muscles to fire are the erector spinae (back muscles), hamstrings, and lastly the quads.
So what is a barbell hip thrust? You can see the picture below.
If you are having trouble with feeling this more in your back muscles as compared to your glutes, try a variation called the American Hip Thrust. This variation starts with a posterior pelvic tilt (flattening your back) and then lifting into the bridge.
Proper bridging takes practice. When performed correctly, variations of bridging can be used for muscle activation as you prepare to work out, for muscle re-education when recovering from injury or disuse, as well as the strengthening of the particular muscle groups as listed above.
Move past the “glute amnesia” and teach your body how to properly utilize your glute muscles. You just might notice that you can start to move with less pain and with improved efficiency.
Here’s to going from “glute amnesia” to buns of steel!
1. Neto WK, Vieira TL, Gama EF. Barbell Hip Thrust, Muscular Activation and Performance: A Systematic Review. J Sports Sci Med. 2019;18(2):198-206. Published 2019 Jun 1.