by Dominika Borovansky Gaines
Seems obvious, right? Poorly and inefficiently utilized butt muscles (gluteus maximus, often referred to as “glutes”) are a leading cause of low back pain. Why? Because we have a tendency to both sit and stand with our tail between our legs. We sit on the back of our pelvis, with our weight behind our ischial tuberosities, squashing our lower glutes (below left). Then, when we stand, our pelvis stays in this posterior tilt (below right).
When you stand and sit with a posteriorly-tilted pelvis, your butt muscles have become a part of your leg. The glutes lose their tone. (Saggy butt, anyone?) And even when you take a forward bend, your lower glutes stay pulled down toward your back thigh instead of placed high on your pelvis as they are designed to best function. What needs to happen instead is for the glutes to lift and separate away from the ischial tuberosities (“sitting bones”). The glutes attach above the hamstrings on these bones. In a forward bend, the glutes slide up on the pelvis to support the sacrum and lumbar spine, as the hamstrings lengthen from the sit bones downward.
Squats are the latest craze for re-building gluteus maximus strength and function. Yet if your glutes are not staying up on your pelvis as you flex your hips, they are going to pull down on your sacrum instead of providing the stability they should. When lowering into a squat, work to keep your spine neutral without tucking your tail or your glutes — keep ’em up and keep ’em high! Then as you come back up out of your squat your glutes will have more freedom to provide the proper force-generation to bring you upright.
Pay attention to where your glutes are throughout the day. Notice where you are sitting and balance your weight on your two sitting bones, not forward or back of them (below left). Standing? Lengthen the back of the thighs and shift your weight back until your pelvis is balanced over your heels (below right).
The more your butt stays on your backside(!) the more toned, healthy and functional your back will remain. You will maintain better shape in your clothes and, most importantly, maintain better standing and walking alignment.