What Type of Cross Training to Strengthen the Hips & Butt?

Get your glutes in gear with cross training.

Get your glutes in gear with cross training.

When a writer for "The New York Times" Well Blog told her doctor that her marathon training had become a literal pain in the butt, he told her that she had become a victim of dead butt syndrome. A weak gluteus medius -- the muscle that stabilizes the hip and pelvis -- caused the problem. Apparently, dead butt syndrome predominates among athletes who only practice one sport. Your butt is too young to die. Get with the cross-training program.

Pilates Masters the Medius

Doctors have learned about the importance of the gluteus medius in the past 10 years, according to "The New York Times" article. Joseph Pilates started playing around with these muscles in the early 20th century. Go figure. The gluteus medius sits on the upper outer portion of your hip. Just about any of the Pilates side-lying or side kneeling leg exercises, as well as some of the supine, prone and equipment workouts, engage the glute medius in a big way. If the Pilates exercise involves abducting or moving your leg away from your center, circling the leg or rotating it in its socket, your gluteus medius has a piece of the action. Engaging these muscles should revive a dead butt. If it doesn't, your hip flexors might be the culprits.

Why Bootie Can't Contract

Sitting all day over-works your hip flexors, which connect your thighs with your pelvis. Overly tight hip flexors inhibit your butt muscles and trigger a condition called reciprocal inhibition. An inhibited bootie is not inclined to boogie, but your butt will only release its inhibitions if your hip flexors get hip to relaxation. It gets even more complicated. When your glutes can't get into the action, your hamstrings take over the movement. Epic failure ensues. Your hammies make fine assistants or synergists to your butt muscles, but they're not strong enough to be your main squeeze. These issues call for cross-training with specialized corrective exercise workouts.

Corrective Workouts

Deactivate over-active hip flexors and hamstrings by rolling them against a foam roller. After five minutes, perform the Cook hip lift, an exercise that physical therapist Gray Cook created to cure for what he calls "gluteal amnesia." Lie supine and bend your left knee up to your chest. Keep your right foot flat, then lift your hips from the floor. If you feel your hamstrings instead of your butt, walk the working leg forward. Next, roll over onto your belly and straighten your legs. Press down with your right hip flexor, then lift your leg from the floor. Perform 12 reps of each exercise, then complete the entire sequence on the other side.

Uphill Battles

Your running workouts burn fat and engage the muscles in your lower body. Uphill running challenges your butt muscles to work harder. Add a few hills to your regular run, or use a treadmill at an incline. In fact, it's possible to do a complete gluteus maximus and medius workout on an incline treadmill. After about 10 minutes of uphill running, slow down the machine, turn sideways and practice lateral side-stepping on the incline. Intersperse side-stepping with uphill running. When you finish the cardio portion of your workout, leave the machine on the incline and practice alternating lunges.

 

About the Author

In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.

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