Glutes are king as far as the hierarchy of your muscles is concerned. “For athletic performance, overall lower body power, strength, speed, and everyday optimum function, honing strength in and activating your glutes should be a top priority in all exercise programs,” says Robert Reames, C.S.C.S., Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute and Pear Training Intelligence System’s weight control coach.
But how do you actually know if you have weak glutes? A good way to test them is to do a single leg squat as low as you can go, says Brian Schulz, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles, CA. “Knee flexion to 90 degrees is a good sign that the gluteal muscles are strong enough,” he says.
How to do it: Begin with one foot firmly planted in front of you with your other leg extended back. Keep balance by putting your weight in the ball of your front foot and the back heel of your back foot. Hold a dumbbell in either hand, arms at your sides. Or, place a resistance band under the foot of your working leg, up, and around the same shoulder. Stand tall and bend your front working leg to approximately 90 degrees, keeping your knee directly over your ankle so it doesn’t over-extend. Return to the start position and repeat. Do both sides.
When you don't spend enough time strengthening your butt, your other muscles can pay the price, says Metzl. See, when your butt isn't strong enough to support you during activities the way it should, you put more loading force on your hamstrings, which can injure them or other muscles, joints, and ligaments that your hamstrings come in contact with—like your calves or knees. Metzl says that when a patient comes in to see him about an injury, weak glutes are often part of the problem.
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width with a kettlebell about a foot in front of you. With your weight in your heels, hinge at your hips while lowering your hands to the kettlebell handle. Grab the kettlebell with an overhand grip, “Hike” the kettlebell back between your legs, catching the force of the moving kettlebell with your hips. Exhale as you swing the kettlebell forward by thrusting your hips, straightening your legs, and squeezing your glutes and abs. Once the kettlebell reaches chest height, inhale as you allow it to fall, and guide it back to the “hiked” position.
Just because your hip flexor region feels sore doesn’t necessarily mean the muscles there are tight — in fact, they might need strengthening. This is where that sports science debate we mentioned earlier comes into play. It’s important to identify whether you’re tight or if the muscles are weak. Again, the Thomas Test will help you identify if you’re maybe stretching something that actually needs strengthening.
“I would really focus on learning how macros work, how your body works and how it reacts to certain foods, and what your body requires each day to maintain your weight,” he advises. “Then you can start playing around with increasing calories [to bulk up], and decreasing calories when you're dieting.” Our beginner's guide to macros will definitely help.
You can strain or tear one or more of your hip flexors when you make sudden movements such as changing directions while running or kicking. Sports and athletic activities where this is likely to occur include running, football, soccer, martial arts, dancing, and hockey. In everyday life, you can strain a hip flexor when you slip and fall, for example.
Hook a velcro cuff to a low cable pulley and then attach the cuff to your right ankle. Face the weight stack from a distance of about two feet, grasping the frame for support. Keep your knees and hips bent slightly and your abs tight, contract your right glutes to kickback the leg. Slowly bring your working leg forward, resisting the pull of the cable until you reach the starting position. Repeat for required reps, then switch legs.
How to do it: In general, your feet should be shoulder-width or slightly wider apart (if you’ve got a bigger frame go wider; if you’re smaller, go closer together), and your feet planted firmly on the floor, driving and emphasizing that heel drive. Stand tall. Depending on your preference or what’s available, hold a dumbbell in each hand (arms down at your sides); position yourself under a barbell with the bar against your traps for a back squat, and just over your chest for a front squat; hold a kettbell or dumbbell at your chest for goblet squats; wrap resistance bands under your feet and around your shoulders; or, use just your bodyweight to perform a basic squat.
Another muscle, the rectus femoris, can also limit hip flexion and cause problems in yoga poses. Part of the quadriceps muscle on the front of the thigh, it originates near the ASIS, runs down the center of the thigh, and inserts on the shinbone (tibia) just below the knee. When the rectus femoris contracts and shortens, it not only extends or straightens the knee, it also flexes the hip.
If you have been training properly for at least three years, you’ll find that advanced pump-enhancing techniques like rest-pause sets, drop sets, and some of the other old-school bodybuilding techniques you’ve no doubt heard of can be effective when used sparingly. Just be sure not to overdo the use of them. And never get away from the most important rule: setting PR’s to get stronger.
The sartorius originates at the ASIS and proceeds to traverse obliquely and laterally down the thigh to eventually insert at the anterior surface of the tibia, just inferomedial to the tibial tuberosity, as part of the pes anserinus. In addition to flexing the hip and knee, the sartorius aids in the abduction of the hip. It is innervated by the femoral nerve (i.e., the posterior division of L2 and L3).