The Most Common Weakness in Your Athletes and How to Fix it
I want to go over the most general weakness we find in new athletes of all levels. It is risky to make a blanket statement pointing out one SINGLE weakness that all people share, so let’s be more specific… I’m going to teach you how to fix glute weakness – a pervasive weakness!
In our majority sedentary population, some people are suddenly getting off their butts and getting into functional fitness training. Maybe it’s because it reminds them that exercise is fun and meaningful. Here, we find a widespread glute weakness that 8 of 10 people seem to have. Humans are designed to move. We are the most “upright” animal, and we have the largest pelvis to shoulder ratio. With this physiology, we need a strong behind to hold us upright!
Since today’s society spends nearly all its time sitting, we lose glute strength by sitting on it and not using it. When you decide to start working out after years of inactivity, your weakest link is also the most important link! Problems, aches, and pains can also arise quickly. Back, hip, knee and shoulder pain can all be tied to weak glutes.
By strengthening your weakest link, you’ll improve numbers in all squat movements, all lifting movements, and mitigate against injury. Let’s move on from the physiology of the problem to fixes!
The first step to fix glute weakness is to “wake them up”!
STEP 1: Wake Them Up
Glutes need to be taught to fire up. In every warm up, let’s add in 3 easy glute exercises. They are simple, repetitive, and they look funny… perfect!
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
We isolate each cheek to get a more concentrated contraction. Lift the hips and pause at the top for 1 -3 seconds. Look for that straight line between the shoulders and the knee to ensure a complete rep. Work each side 10 to 20 reps, or until a real burning sets in!
Using a medium tension elastic band looped into two (half its original size), place it around the knees. This can also be achieved with smaller, therapy elastic bands; but not everyone has access to those at the gym! The athlete should maintain tension in the band while taking small steps in the shape of a square. Always turn your heels out, “leading” with the heels in any direction. Ten steps in every direction is typically enough!
Kickbacks with Band
Next step to fix glute weakness is bringing back Jane Fonda! This exercise is just too useful to leave it out. Depending on how weak the glutes are, you can also scale down to using absolutely no resistance at all. Draw one leg, reaching with the heel to the ceiling. Remember to keep the hips square and abs engaged to avoid cheating by twisting and turning. A very light tension elastic is usually enough. Start with sets of 10 and progress to 20 on each leg.
STEP 2: Strength Training
Goodmornings are a favourite! It works the posterior chain as a deadlift might, but the weight distribution over the shoulders makes it a lot more challenging. Here, we are working sets for strength between 3 and five reps, and typical 4 to 6 sets. Here are basic technique queues:
– keep the bar below the neck crease, placed on the traps
– descend by pulling the hips back (NOT bending forward)
– ascend by contracting the glutes and pushing the hips forwards
Once the glutes are warm and firing, we can put them to work with another compound movement which uses the posterior chain, but primarily the hamstrings and glutes. The main difference between regular deadlifts and straight-leg is that it eliminates the use of the quads to start the movement of the barbell upwards. Typical sets of between 3 and 5 reps is ideal, along with sets of 4 to 6 per session.
Barbell Glute Bridge
This is an excellent finisher for any workout and works to isolate the glutes. Unlike the warm up version, the intensity is increased by adding a barbell. Typical sets and reps for strength can be followed, but 3 -4 sets is usually adequate. Add a level of difficulty by placing the feet on a swiss ball or a bench. The instability/ elevation makes a huge difference!
Bulgarian Split Squat
Our final and best recommendation to fix glute weakness is this beauty of a move. Some call it a Bulgarian split squat, and others call it by its official name, “rear-foot elevated split-squat.” Start without a barbell at all, then add it in the back squat position, the overhead position, or the front rack position. Fix glute weakness with these queues for Bulgarian split squat:
– use a soft bench or place a mat on the rear platform for better grip
– use a wide stance with the shin in a vertical start position
– the athlete should be queued to dip as vertically as possible and force with the heel firmly placed on the ground
Chances are, you or your athletes are suffering from this pervasive weakness which leads to plateauing in many of the compound movements and pain in the knees, back or hips. Fix glute weakness in your next training phase to improve performance as efficiently as possible!