As we talked about in the previous blog, ‘Weak glutes – Not just a pain the arse’, you need to combine strengthening exercises for the targeted gluteal muscles, alongside stretching of the muscles in the compensatory chain – those muscles which have been taking up the slack from the underperforming glutes.
To strengthen the glutes
With feet hip distance apart and placed at a comfortable distance from your bum, tilt the pelvis so your tail bone moves away from the floor. Peel your spine off the floor one vertebrae at a time from the tail bone up. Stop when you reach a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Give a little butt-squeeze at the top before tilting the pelvis to begin rolling back down, one vertebrae at a time.
To advance this move, try placing one ankle on the opposite knee before peeling up, or raising one foot to the ceiling in a straight line. Keep an eye on those hips though and make sure they stay level.
Fantastic for targeting the gluteus medius which stabilises the pelvis, start by lying on one side, with knees drawn up so as to form right angles at your hips and knees. Don’t allow your waist to sink to the floor. Keeping your feet together, lift the upper knee away from the lower leg and give a little squeeze of the top of bum cheek at the top of the move.
The beginning position places the arm on the floor beneath your head and progresses with difficulty as you move up to your elbow and then raise the feet. Be sure to keep your pelvis in line and don’t allow it to tip backwards.
- Rear leg extensions
Lying prone (face down), forehead resting on the backs of your hands or floor, squeeze your bum to protect your lower back and slowly lift the foot and knee off the floor a few inches. The focus is on lifting the leg as a whole here, not on bending the knee.
Try both feet together to progress the difficulty, but be sure to protect that back by keeping your head low and your bum squeezed. You may want to try slow alternating flutter kicks too, whilst keeping both legs off the floor.
To stretch the hardworking compensatory muscles
Hamstrings – Forward fold
Take a deep breath in and begin by tilting the chin into the chest and slowly folding down, one vertebrae at a time as you make your way toward the floor. Allow your head to be heavy and hang the arms, or support them on the floor or shins. Walk your hands down the shins for additional support.
Whilst you’re down there, bend one knee after the other to deepen the stretch and boost the blood flow. Slightly bend both knees before uncurling your spine one facet at a time, with your head being the last thing to lift. Shrug the shoulders up to your ears and allow them to drop away. Repeat 3 or 4 times.
Piriformis – Supine pigeon
Or lying number 4 stretch… Lie on your back and bring your knees into your chest. Place your left ankle on the opposite knee to form a number 4 shape with your legs. Reach your left hand through the space and grasp your right shin with both hands. If this is too strong, place your hands in the fold of your leg around your thigh.
The trick here is to keep your head on the floor if you can. Hold for around 30 seconds before swapping sides. You will definitely find one side easier than the other, so try holding it longer on the stiffer side if you can bear it!
Hip flexors – Low lunge
Start on your knees and step forward with one foot. Sink the hips toward the floor and shuffle your foot further forward to keep your shin at a right angle to the floor as sink into the stretch, tucking your pelvis and squeezing your back bum cheek as you go. You should feel the stretch in the front of your hips mainly, not the quad, although you will be working this area too. If not, narrow your stance and tuck the pelvis more. You can place your hands on the floor, either side of your front foot, or use yoga blocks or the sofa for support.
Can you lift your upper body? Support yourself on your bent knee and if you can, gently turn toward that same side. Keep that cheek squeezed and pelvis tucked! The wider your stance, the deeper the stretch, targeting all the hip flexors, right into that Psoas. Hold for 30 seconds on each side, working towards one minute.
Try this 15 minute stretch routine
The idea is to move slowly between each stretch, working on one side before swapping to complete the routine on the other side. Each stretch can be held for around 30 seconds to begin with, lengthening the time in stretch as you practise more.
- Roll down into forward fold and hang for a while to warm up and loosen the lower back. Walk the hands down the legs for additional support if needed. Pedal the knees as described above
- Make your way into table top and move between cat to cow a few times to further help that back
- Step forward with the left leg into a low lunge
- Move your bum backwards and straighten the left leg into a hamstring stretch
- Move your bum forward again and back into table top.
- From here you can make your way down onto your back for supine pigeon, or bend the left knee, laying the outside of your shin on the floor to move into prone pigeon.
- Roll up onto your feet and back into table top, or if you’re in prone pigeon, push with your rear toes to manoeuvre yourself back into table top for cat to cow a couple of times to centralise
- Rock back onto your toes, with your back rounded, to stretch your Achilles tendon and lower calf muscles
- Place your heels firmly on the floor and roll up carefully to begin the whole sequence again, starting with the right leg moving in step 3.
Taking part in regular exercise classes will inevitably increase your glute strength and flexibility. The above moves frequently crop up in my Pilates classes, with varying degrees of difficulty. On Tuesday 18th May, we are returning to face to face classes with Pilates4All at 10:30am. This class will also be streamed live on Zoom. Senior citizens get a discount with Ad Astra, so please email me on firstname.lastname@example.org before booking. Or book your place for either class here: Ad Astra Yoga & Pilates Booking.