A Functional Butt, And Its Relationship to the Low Back

Posted by Rob Rodriguez on May 4, 2012 7:40:50 AM

Functional Butt Training

Let’s first take a look at the butt (not a bad area to look at!). Ever wondered why its stature is so awesome, big, yet powerful? Everything we do in our functional environment, our everyday lives or our chosen sporting pursuits is done in upright function.

This means a whole body, chain reaction system (our bodies) that collectively (all 400 muscles / 70 joints / 1M nerves) comes together to enhance control and drive our activities. Which means everything goes through the hips, and therefore the butt, the Gluteus Maximus (Maximus – derivative of big, strong, powerful) has underneath it 17 other muscles that directly attach it via fascia (envelope of interconnecting tissue surrounding muscles) to control, decelerate and accelerate all body movement.

The hips' 28 muscles then, can be viewed upon as ‘crossroads’ of our body, where everything goes to, and comes from in the world of movement and production and, transmission of forces. All muscles, all joints, all fascia, and all nerves that stimulate these structures have 2 things in common:-

  • They are situated to and need stimulation in 3-Dimensional movement.
  • And this 3-Dimensional movement works best subconsciously and when integrated with all other body parts.

Let’s explore the above concepts to fully appreciate how first to train a great looking, powerful butt, and how at risk joints predisposed to potential injury, such as knee and low back (lumbar spine).

Concept and Rationale for 3D Exercise

Any functional activity / or training such as running or golf, requires the body to be as effective as can be to complete the task chosen by an individual. When we run, the forces that make up our external environment, those being gravity above us, and ground reaction forces as our foot enters the ground in foot strike, cause our bodies to ‘squish’ into the ground as our body absorbs those forces having just met each other, amplified by the mass of our bodies moving with great degree of momentum.

The ‘squish’ effect is a great thing because our bodies receive free energy to store into our muscles / tendons so that it can be converted to produce the necessary force to fuel our running. As the foot enters the ground the foot ‘unlocks’ and movement produced in 3 planes, being sagittal, frontal and transverse plane. This foot motion is the switch to turn on the same 3D movements to light up all the joint and muscles about to turn on a contribute the system.

The necessary foot motion, in all 3 planes, stimulates the Hips to react in all 3 planes, as the foot lands the hips undergo a Triplane loading whereby flexion (in sagittal plane) adduction  (frontal plane) and internal rotation (transverse plane) occurs.

This Triplane motion is just what the butt craves to turn on this big, powerful muscle. It gets wound up, lengthened, can produce quick, powerful, concentric  motion needed to help with strength required for any task / function. So the butt is the power source for running that takes the brunt of all the forces of ground contact for a runner to run pain free, effectively and efficiently day in day out, week in week out.

What if that butt didn’t receive the motion from the foot, or from the hip needed. You know what it’s like when you feel ‘stiff’ or ‘tight’ - the body frequently encounters physical blocks such as tight muscles, restrictive joint capsules, over indulgence or repetitive movements that ‘lock’ the body down in that motion, and when needed and called upon for another task such as reaching for something on a shelf behind you – the foot, the hips ‘lock’.

Those physical blocks are the reason, and most common cause of low back pain. Mobility and stability in equal measure is critical for the low back to transmit forces through it and not get beaten up.

Let’s take this reaching task – Try it. Stand up and take your right hand out in front of you at chest height. Now the goal is to reach directly behind you whilst still have your body facing forward. So as the hand rotates back the shoulders rotate to the right as well, the spine rotates to the right two albeit slightly slower than the shoulders. The hips also rotate right but again slower that the hips.

This sequence follows all the way to the feet where weight will sit on the outside of right foot, and will sit on the outside left foot when right foot, and inside of left foot when right arm reaches its 180  degree target.
This is a natural chain reaction sequence that takes place and differs slightly depending on the task, imagine the above scenario if the hips were immobile or ‘locked’ into tightness.

The body still has to complete the reach, the body needs success so it will complete task with compensation. Guess where the compensation will be? The Hips? – yes. The failure of hips to rotate, requires lumborspine to rotate, a movement which is very restricted in anyway but is a workhorse  joint that picks up the ‘slack’ via deficiency of the hips, so lumbar spine rotates more than it should – and bang – it goes!

Bad back the physio / doctor will say but truth is it’s just a symptom of the real cause- ineffectively trained hips.

Second example was golf, standing motion – have to Tee-Off and drive ball 300 yards down the fairway a lot of power needed from hips, they get Triplane loaded (both hips) in both back swing and follow through because it stimulates the big butt to turn on and power the club and success for our golfing pursuits.
What if hips dysfunction, less distance, bad back and end of golf. The ViPR is perfect to train as above with its gravity / ground reaction, 3D, integrated ethos it suits everybody – no matter what the goal.

Let’s look at some exercises to train the foot, the butt (hips) and the lumbar spine.

1. Step Over Squat

With a ViPR in a front carry position resting across the shoulders, keep elbows up and out to lift the chest and extend the spine. With left foot fixed on floor take the right foot and step across and in front of the left foot. (making a T shape with both feet). Now use the right foot to step out and rotate right whilst simultaneously performing a squat. Repeat for 12 reps then repeat on the opposite side of the body.

The above exercise takes a squat whereby increasing leg and butt strength but adding the rotation of the foot in and out facilitates rotation of the hips and proper loading (pronating) and unloading (supernating) of the feet. This elicits a chain reaction that enables the whole body to move through the transverse plane and decrease rotational forces (torque) at the lumbar spine.

2. Ice-Skaters

Start with feet shoulder width apart, holding the ViPR with the neutral grip handles – hop onto the left leg and shift the right hand side of the Vipr down toward left knee. The right leg drifts behind the working left foot to counter balance the body weight and load the left side of the hip. The hop to the right leg and shipt the left hand side of the Vipr down towards the right knee, allowing the left foot to drift behind the right foot. Hop side to side in a quick rhythmical manner.  Perform up to 45 seconds.

The above exercise is a power exercise and improves strength in a single leg stance whilst training and conditioning the gluteal muscles and those of the low back  from above (using the hands gravity and the vipr) and below (using the hopping action and the ground reaction forces feeding into the body.

3. Cross Body Lateral Tilt

Start with Vipr upstanding length ways on the floor. Take a three step shuffle to the right, upon landing stabilise on the right leg (allowing left leg to drift behind right leg again) . As the body shuffles to the right the left hand is on the inside the tube of the ViPR and is shifting across to the outside of the right knee.

Next take a three step shuffle to the right and land on right leg single leg balance stance.  This time the right hand is inside tube of the Vipr and is reaching outside the left knee. Perform in a quick rhythmical manner for up to 45 seconds.

The above exercise takes the Ice Skater foot pattern from exercise two but this time the opposite hand reaching way outside the knee influences greater the demand on the gluteal muscles and added rotational component involving the Thoracic Spine.

4. Reverse Lunge with Rotational Shift

Starting on a low step with Vipr in a neutral handle grip, lunge backwards on the right leg whilst simultaneously shifting the Vipr to the left hand side of the body with the right hand on top . The Vipr should be perpendicular to the floor.  Perform 12 reps and repeat on opposite side of the body.

The above exercise is used with a step to add greater height to the lunge to increase the gravitational and ground reaction forces when the foot lands to further enhance the resistance felt by the gluteal muscles. The rotational shift done as above influences the spine in all three planes of motion to replicate the function of walking and running.

5. Reverse Lunge with Frontal Plane Uppercut

Starting on a low step with Vipr held in a neutral grip take a right leg lunge backwards whilst driving the Vipr up and across to the left side of the chest in an uppercut fashion. Keeps eyes looking forward and return to starting position. Repeat for 12 reps and replicate on the opposite side of the body.

The above exercise takes advantage of the step and the lunge, however the uppercut with the Vipr influences the spine to rotate and side bend in opposite directions to replicate the function of Golf and some racket sports.

To Summarise

  • Select exercises that take advantage of intergrating the bodies many structures and train them together as a whole system for performance enhancement, prevention of injury and to increase calorie burn.
  • Select exercises that are performed in an upright position, taking advantage of gravity ground reaction forces and our bodies mass (inclusive of the resistance of the Vipr) and when we move in this manner it further loads and stimulates the body to become stronger and more functional.
  • If possible train with shoes that allow minimal cushioning to allow for the foot to spread and mould to the surface so the bones of the foot can move and unlock and stimulate the rest of the body to experience motion.

Paul Edmondson

Fitness and Nutrition Lecturer and Trainer

Topics: Advice

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