Why Your Glutes Are Nap­ping All Day

SHAPE (USA) - - Contents - By Mary An­der­son

And ex­actly how to get your butt in gear

They are among the largest mus­cles in the body, but we sit on them for too many hours, and most of us starve them of enough move­ment. Here, the sci­ence of how to get your butt in gear.

Break the sit cy­cle

Amer­i­cans sit about 10 hours a day, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment stats. “Sit­ting is the killer for glutes,” says Michele Ol­son, Ph.D., an ex­er­cise sci­en­tist at Hunt­ing­don Col­lege in Alabama. “For hours on end, those mus­cles can be to­tally un­en­gaged.” That also means glutes are do­ing over­time in a length­ened po­si­tion—not good for such sta­bi­liz­ing mus­cles. Stand­ing helps, Ol­son says: The glu­teus max­imus plays a key role in keep­ing us up­right, so get up to wake it.

Mind your step deficit

“We rely on our glutes to walk, but we don’t do enough walk­ing,” Ol­son says. A re­cent Stan­ford Univer­sity study found that Amer­i­cans av­er­age 4,774 steps per day, or 187 be­low the world av­er­age. Walk­ing ac­ti­vates the glutes at 20 to 40 per­cent of their max­i­mum con­trac­tion, says John Will­son, Ph.D., an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of phys­i­cal ther­apy at East Carolina Univer­sity. That’s a step in the right di­rec­tion, he says, “but to cre­ate an an­abolic [that is, mus­cle-build­ing] re­sponse in the glutes, you’d have to do some­thing more, like take the stairs.” Or run—Will­son’s re­search shows that the glu­teus max­imus and medius may reach 80 to 90 per­cent of max con­trac­tion in women as they run, akin to do­ing a lunge.

Squat like you mean it

The lat­est recs call for two strength ses­sions weekly to hit all your ma­jor mus­cles. Squats will en­sure you firm the glutes: An Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Ex­er­cise study found that the sta­ple move works the glu­teus max­imus at least as well as six pop­u­lar ma­chine or body-weight ex­er­cises. “To ac­ti­vate the glutes even more per squat, widen your stance and lower a bit past a 90-de­gree bend in your knees,” Ol­son says.

SIT­TING TAR­GET The three ma­jor groups of mus­cles that form the butt— glu­teus max­imus, medius, and min­imus—are easy to iso­late with strength ex­er­cises.

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