We all know chicks are all about the booty gains. But for some reason, guys don’t seem to care much about it at all. It mostly stems out of the ignorance and lack of knowledge  people have about the role of the glutes in strength movements and athletic performance in general.

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The glutes are, or at least should be the primary muscle driving hip extension and leg abduction. However there are instances in which the glutes might not be performing their main role:

  1. Poor motor control: the glutes are inhibited and can’t contract properly mostly because we lack the ability to activate it at the right time in a synchronous manner.
  2. Overshadowed glutes: in this situation they do fire correctly, but they aren’t as strong as the other lower body muscles (like your quads, or back erectors), resulting in inefficient performance and often some type of pain. Whenever you perform a movement like a squat or a deadlift, or any exercise that involves multiple muscle groups, the majority of the work will tend to be done by the strongest muscle.
  3. Posture: Your hip flexors (psoas) attach from your hip to your femur in the front, and your glutes attach from your hip to your femur in the back, they need to be in balance and have proper mobility in order for you to be able to achieve proper glute activation patterns.
    • A posterior pelvic tilt (flat ass) for example will result in lengthened and weak hip flexors, which will negate good activation of the glutes.
    • On the other hand, tight hip flexors result in an anterior pelvic tilt (butt sticking out). However a slight degree of anterior tilt can put the glutes at a slight leverage advantage (See Shirley Sahrman’s book Movement Impairment Syndromes) and result in better activation of the glutes. Look at the difference between the Kalahari Bushman vs a typical western male in terms of glute development:

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Still don’t think you need a bigger ass?!

Hip extension occurs when coming out of the bottom of the squat, and in the lockout of a deadlift. If you are a powerlifter that means that 2/3 of the competition lifts heavily involve hip extension, which is often one of, if not THE limiting factor of most lifts: failing to lock out a deadlift and being unable to stand up from a squat. You with me?

Glute weakness can lead to not only failing lifts, but to form breakdown. For example, in the deadlift excessive back rounding occurs not due to lower back weakness as most people think, but due to glute weakness. You should never use your back as a prime mover in a deadlift in the first place. Your erectors should contract isometrically and allow the king muscles to do their thing: the glutes and hamstrings extend the hips, and the quads extend the knees. So here we see that back rounding is not necessarily due to back weakness but due to glute weakness!

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Click here to read an article I wrote on back rounded deadlifts 

Although we know that hypertrophy isn’t directly related to strength, we do know that by increasing the size of the muscle can lead to improved recruitment and strength. If you develop stronger glutes, you will depend on them even when the weight is heavy and will be able to preserve your form even at supra maximal attempts. Improving motor control and development of the glutes can also prevent muscular imbalances!

Stay tuned for my next article, in which I talk about my favorite glute accessory exercises for devastating strength and power!

Stefanie Cohen

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