Do you suffer from lower back pain? You just might have a lazy butt!
Most people are unaware of how important their buttocks (actually their gluteal muscles or glutes) are to their overall core stability and overall muscular skeletal health. Many more – even those who work out regularly – don’t realise that their glutes are not doing the job they are supposed to.
Some years ago, I suffered a prolapsed disc in my lower back which was excruciatingly painful. I couldn’t work, let alone work out, as any sort of movement put me in complete agony. I needed urgent help.
Through contacts, I was lucky enough to be put in touch with physio Jonathan Hockey who, after working for the NHS in London and with private clients, including Tottenham Hotspur and the Surrey County Cricket team, set up his own practice in Horsmonden. He discovered that my glutes were underactive. This came as a complete surprise to me, as glute activation had always been a particular interest of mine. I was fully aware of how important they are and had enabled clients to develop these muscles to overcome lower back and knee problems, improve their core and run marathons. I treated my personal experience as an opportunity to further develop my knowledge. Working together with Jonathan, I was able to fully recover and get back to work within six weeks.
“In 80% of cases where patients present with lower back issues, they have lower backs that are too strong due to under active and weak glutes”
Once back at work, I brought my heightened knowledge to the group of sprinters I was training. You would assume by looking at the big definition of an international sprinter that their glutes would be firing on all cylinders. But a good few had over-developed their quads – the muscles at the front of thighs – because their glutes were not working at full capacity. This meant they were prone to injury and were not working efficiently. By focusing on better activating their glutes, sprint times increased dramatically, and their injuries decreased. I caught up recently with Jonathan for this column and asked him to explain what the glutes do, why they are important and what his favourite exercises to activate them are.
Jonathan explains: “The glutes are very important, especially during walking and lifting, because they are the main muscles that control these movements. The glutes work together with the psoas (the muscles that connect our spine and hips) in order to propel us forwards. Without these two working together, it is impossible to walk. If someone has weak or underactive glutes, the body has to use compensatory methods to move forwards and often uses the lower back and hamstrings – the muscles at the back of the upper leg. When these two combine to replace the glutes, you get a compression to the spine and hip joints and this is what leads to injuries.” He goes on to add, “We have found that in 80% of cases where patients present with lower back issues, they have lower backs that are too strong due to under active and weak glutes. In these cases, we spend a lot of time rehabilitating their muscles and improve the issues with lower back pain by strengthening their glutes. This takes away a lot of the compression in the lower back and prevents nerve impingement which reflects down the leg as sciatic pain and also prevents knee injury, helping sports people improve acceleration, strength and performance.”
Exercise of the month: Step ups
March up the stairs two at a time (on the way down go careful and take one stair at a time).
Try driving up with the glutes as if you going to drive up through the roof or a jump-like action.
Start with a couple of times up and down the stairs and build up gradually.
Do this a few times a week for 6-8 weeks and your bottom should be firing beautifully.
Sarah Maxwell is a multiple award-winning Fitness and Lifestyle coach and mum of two who juggles a lot of balls. Find out more about Sarah and her work at sarahmaxwell.com
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Contact Jonathan Hockey at Horsmonden Physiotherapy Clinic
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