'Do you know how to stand?' may seem like an odd question to ask, as standing is an innate process. To be honest, I haven't met many people that stand correctly. In today's 21st century, highly sedentary, chair promoting society, it is the exception to stand correctly. This blog post will detail the specifics of how to activate, test and improve the glutes. The most important muscle group when it comes to standing and maintaining a healthy spine.
Standing correctly is the first step in achieving a healthy, pain free frame. In order to stand correctly, your glutes must first function properly. One of my mentors, one of the most knowledgeable chiropractors in the world, Dr. David Leaf, teaches most clients how to walk properly. He even wrote a whole textbook on assessing feet and gait (great read and worth every penny, Click Here for Link). This got me thinking, what about standing? I found myself standing for hours on end working with patients throughout the day. If I was walking around I felt great, but standing seemed to kill me and at the end of the day my upper back would hurt, my head would be moving anterior and my shoulders starting to round. What was next?
Dr. Kelly Starrett, has already bridged this gap. His method of learning how to stand is great and is the starting point of all structural work. The CrossFit community knows Dr. Starrett very well and after reading Deskbound, in a day (I couldn't put it down), I realized everyone needs to learn how to stand, before they can learn how to walk. Before they learn how to stand, they must learn how to use and work the glutes.
One common thread with almost all clients when first beginning any type of structural treatment plan, whether therapeutic or performance based, is the glutes don't work very well. Years of sitting, walking improperly, inactivity, injury, etc. have all led to the largest, strongest muscle group in the body not working very well. This is especially true with low back pain. I can count on one hand the number of clients who have low back pain and have properly functioning glute muscles. 1000s of patients, less than 5 with low back pain had properly working glutes.
Creating Healthy Glutes - The Starting Point
Creating health glutes requires two pieces. First, you must have muscle endurance and second you must be able to engage in normal daily activities as well as when working out or playing sports.
- To test for your glute endurance, lay on your back on the floor. Palms open toward the ceiling, thumbs out, shoulder blades flat on the ground. This can be achieved by flexing your external rotators while keeping your arms stable. You will feel your back muscles engage.
- Squeeze your glutes up to 70% max. You may feel some unwinding or sensations in your spine while doing this. This type of exercise also resets and stabilizes the spine. It should feel pretty good.
- Once everything is set and flexing, hold for 5 min.
Everyone should be able to sustain a 70% flexed glute muscle group in this position for 5 minutes. If you can't that means you need to work at glute muscle endurance. Perform this up to 4 times a day until 5 minutes is easily achieved.
The next phase is squeezing your glutes while standing, sitting, walking, running, etc. Get in the habit of squeezing your glute muscles all day long. This will optimize your spine and also help create and sustain a healthy brain to muscle connection with your glutes. Remember, the glutes are the strongest, largest muscle group in the body. You want to train it, and train it often. There are even books written on this subject, but use this as it is practical and very simple.
The better your glute function, the better your structural and spinal health. Also, the better you look in pants!