There are a few key areas that, because of our daily habits (sitting and slouching), are a common source of struggle and lack of strength. Why is this an issue? Well, most importantly, movement without pain. However, underworked muscles are not only a source of pain (due to the imbalance they create, which leads to compensating and overworking other muscles during movement), but they could be holding you back from seeing the results you're working so hard to achieve. Today, I'm going to talk about two key areas, common issues and potential sources of pain they create, and what you can do to move beyond the plateau and start getting the results you're looking for.
Weak glutes = saggy butt (who wants that?!).
Funny story - When I asked one of my first training clients what her goals were, she told me she wanted "an hour glass waist and a big ass". I thanked her for her honesty and we both got a good laugh, but let's be honest, no one wants a saggy butt. More importantly, however, we need strong glutes for function!
Glutes extend the hip as we walk, run, and stand from a seated position. These are not activities exclusive to athletes or fitness geeks like me. Weak glutes allow other muscles to pick up the slack and commonly leads to lower back pain. The answer? Let me tell you, it is NOT squatting heavier weight. Trust me, I've been there, done that, and I've strained my back multiple times. Not fun. Back pain is seriously the worst! If your glutes aren't engaging properly, your body is likely not lowering into, or lifting out of, proper squat position. Most times, this leads to loading the spine. Loading your spine does not lead to results, it leads to pain. If you don't feel your glutes working while you're walking, running, squating, lunging - they're not engaging.
Weak Upper Back
Weak upper back creates another unwanted look - hunchback, which also leads to back pain. What are you doing this very moment? Looking at your phone or computer reading this. Think about your upper body positioning - arms forward, rounded shoulders, shoulder blades winging out. Hours upon hours over time in this exact position slowly tightens the chest muscles and stretches the upper back (most importantly, the area between your shoulder blades). And, what do I see most often worked in the weight zone at the gym? Mirror muscles (ugh). Sure, we all want to look good, but only training what you see in the mirror is creating major imbalances in your upper body.
Strengthening your upper back will give you good posture, which not only looks better, but FEELS better. We are more confident when we stand straight and walk upright. You breathe better when your body is upright as well. Unfortunately, because this area is so commonly overstretched and underworked, it can be a source of struggle. Want to get that first pull up? Work your upper back! Want to get a better overhead lift? Work your upper back! Most importantly, want to feel better on a daily basis - work your upper back!
So, before you jump into squats, lunges, ring rows, or pull ups (assisted or unassisted), you need to create a mind-body connection to get the right muscles engaged and working BEFORE you start loading. The key = ACTIVATION!!
These small moves done before your work out or even just on their own will help you move better, feel better, and get you to the next level with training. Grab a resistance band if you have one. No worries if you don't, there are several activation exercises below you can try that don't require a band and you'll still feel it!
Banded side steps
Banded monster walk