If you’ve spent more time than ever sitting throughout the past year of pandemic life, your butt has probably paid the price. Yep, in addition to turning your upper back into a rounded turtle shell, sitting for long periods of time seriously messes with the muscles around your hip joints—particularly your glutes and hip flexors—throwing off everything from your running game to your squat form. It’s also a recipe for lower-back pain. Definitely not an ideal situation—but also not hopeless! Use this guide to engage your glutes, boost your fitness, and avoid injury.
First, Why Sitting Makes Your Glutes Lazy
Humans were physiologically designed to spend much of our time standing and walking. When we spend lots of time sitting, though, our muscles adapt to that position. This causes a number of muscles throughout our body to become either tighter or more stretched-out than they should be—and one group of muscles that gets excessively lengthened is our glutes.
Though having stretched-out muscles might sound like a good thing, it actually affects their ability to produce force. So, having chronically too-long glutes means having weak —or at least weaker—glutes.
And that’s bad news for more than just your butt selfies. Since your glutes play a huge role in how you do everything from walk to squat, weakness in them impacts your performance and can even set you up for imbalances and injury.
Squatting with weak, inactive glutes, for example, places extra stress on your quads and knees, which will eventually lead you to plateau, potentially experience knee pain, and get injured.
How To Get Your Glutes Back In The Game
Luckily, you’re not doomed to having snoozy glutes if you work a desk job. Use these tactics to engage your glutes and keep ‘em strong (and shapely).
1. Break Up Long Bouts of Sitting
If you go hours without getting up from your seat throughout the day, step number one for showing your glutes some love is to simply stand more. Easier said than done, sure—but absolutely doable.
One easy way to get up and moving more often: Set an alarm. Shoot for once an hour or every other hour and spend five minutes walking and moving around, even if it’s just back and forth in your living room.
2. Make Friends With A Mini-Band
Before jumping into workouts—whether strength sessions or jogs outside—grab a looped mini-band to perform a few glute activation exercises. (Might we suggest these Sports Research Mini Loop Bands?) In just five minutes or so, these exercises fire up those important muscles so that you can better engage them during whatever workout you’re about to do.
Before your next sweat, wrap a mini-band around your legs (just above your knees) and try the following:
- Glute bridges (2 sets of 10 reps)
- Clamshells (2 sets of 10 reps per side)
- Lateral walks (2 sets of 5 steps in each direction)
- Bodyweight squats (2 sets of 10 reps)
3. Mind Your Squat Form
During your actual workouts, watching your form and focusing on using the right muscles makes a huge difference. When squatting, in particular, think about leading the movement with your hips, not your knees. Sink your seat back and down and actively squeeze your glutes throughout the movement.
Read More: I Did Squats Every Day For A Month
This helps ensure your lower back and knees don’t end up over-stressed—and that you get the booty gains you’re looking for from squatting in the first place.
4. Make Your Workouts More Glute-Friendly
Of course, if you sit consistently, you also need to consistently strengthen the muscles impacted by being sedentary. To help maintain healthy glute function for solid workouts and all-around pain-free movement and proper posture, incorporate glute-focused movements into your training sessions at least two or three times per week. In addition to those banded glute activations, focus on exercises like weighted glute bridges or hip thrusts, squats, and deadlifts. Really engage your glutes throughout every rep to reap the benefits.