Acknowledging and Addressing Weaknesses- Glute Activation

Whew! That powerlifting meet really did me in! It turns out, setting FOUR lifetime PRs in a day does a number on a body- Sunday, I probably expended 20 calories total. I simply remained horizontal for the entirety of the day, and consumed everything. EVERY. THING. My body was absolutely mangled.

 

Monday, though, I hit the gym again, just to get a quick pump, get my blood flowing, as I knew this would help me heal up a bit better. I gasp stuck to machines- I couldn’t even face a barbell, to be honest- and just did a 30 minute full-body circuit. As predicted, I woke up Tuesday feeling like a million bucks, and hit the gym hard again for some (what else) SQUATS!

 

I chose squats very intentionally, for my first real day back in the gym. Having watched my lift videos from the meet a hundred times, my squats bugged me. Oh dear oh dear did they bug me. You see, watching those videos serves a purpose other than patting myself on the back- Nice job, Stephanie, way to pick that shit up– it served as a reflective tool for me, as well. Rather than just watching the video objectively, I started to pick it apart, to find flaws and weaknesses. Now don’t twist it, I’m not advocating we all take photos of ourselves and nitpick them until we make ourselves cry, no no. This is not about laughing about my Fucking Squat face, but about improving. You see, when I watched those squat videos, I saw something terrible. Something that had been pointed out to me on meet day, but I didn’t really think about until I saw it for myself.

 

Did you see it? Look past the beastly lift itself, break it down.

Valgus. Collapse.

 

This is the term for that “knee buckling” you see not too uncommonly. I never realized how pronounced mine was until I took a look at these videos. And this is not ok.

So, what’s a girl to do? Wallow in it? Ignore it? Quit?
Fuck that.

 

It’s fixing time. Based on the observations of my friend DJ, a trainer and massage therapist, as well as my own research, and frankly, it seems likely that the problem is weakness in my glutes. I will be the first to admit that my glutes have been a constant struggle- both in strength and mass building. My anatomy is just such that my quads and hamstrings take over movements where my glutes should be firing, which is pretty obvious when you look at me. I’m all thigh, no booty. Luckily, I had already committed to focusing on booty building during the next few months.

 

Alright. Brace yourself. This is about to be link-city, because I’ve recently done a lot of reading to augment what I already know and have already tried, and I want to give you the best selection of resources to utilize, being as I’ve tried LOTS of things, but only a select few have worked for me. Who knew glutes were so picky and individual?

And so, the quest to make these glutes activate commences. Luckily, Brett Contreras exists, and he’s compiled a wealth of information on glutes, specifically, including a phenomenal article on addressing valgus collapse! I’ll be relying  heavily on his sources and his interpretation of many of them in combination to help me not just grown glutes, but increase my glute strength, with the ultimate goal of fixing my squat. Aesthetic glute gains will be appreciated as well, obviously.

 

So I’ve been experimenting with this every day. Sometimes multiple times per day, utilizing a set of minibands I ordered for the express purpose of getting these glutes to wake up. Having known that my glutes were a weak point, I’ve been experimenting with glute activation techniques such as these, these, and these, but I’ve had only minimal success. Honestly, the addition of these little rubber circles has woken my glutes up- I nearly CRIED the first time I felt them kick in, just doing a simple bodyweight glute bridge with the band around my knees.

 

My personal glute activation warm-up now looks something like this, though it changes daily as I experiment with what works best for my own glutes. It bears noting that I do this before every working, not just my lower body workouts. Being as glutes are such a large muscle (except mine…Team Tiny Glutes, but, I’m working on it!), they are able to handle the workload, particularly because it’s not heavy work, every day.

  • 2x 15-20 bodyweight box squats, with miniband (placement just below the knee)
  • 2x 20 bodyweight bridges, with miniband (same placement)
  • 2x 15-20 miniband seated hip abduction – seated as opposed to walking, because the glute weakness that causes valgus often occurs at the bottom of the squat- where you are as you are seated, so working from this specific angle is beneficial
  • 2x 20-30 second single leg glute bridge static holds, each side

 

Sarah, over at Swole Sarah, recently spoke to a friend with a Masters in biomechanics, who gave her a few ideas to implement, as well, which I’ll be trying out, being as my massage therapist recommended I more thoroughly warm up my psoas and gluteus medius as well:

 

I have also added in some lightweight (well, up to 70% of my max, I guess) squats using the miniband as well, to help me remember to keep pressing those knees out. So far, I’ve found the combination of the activation warm-up circuit and these banded squats to be really beneficial. My squats are feeling stronger coming out of the hole, and I can feel my glutes firing to help me finish the lift, as opposed to my quads doing the bulk of the work, and, I know that soreness is not an indicator of work accomplished, but for the first time ever I have been experiencing glute DOMS! This is a terrible and exciting new development for me, but, my husband doesn’t mind, as this gives him a phenomenal excuse to massage my glutes, which, according to both him and my gym mirror, are looking fan-freaking-tastic this week.

Actual photographs of what’s been going on in my house this week

 

Twerking between sets is optional, but highly recommended. particularly if you’re listening to Borgore. Perhaps… better left to the home gym crowd, though… but no judgement if you’re dropping it low at 24, either.

I’m going to continue to experiment with activation techniques, and working on fixing up this valgus until my squat is totally reformed. I’ll also be adding in some more targeted glute work that I’ve not been doing, as I prepped to compete for powerlifting- weighted bridges and/or hip thrusts, single leg cable kickbacks with the ab sling, Bulgarian split squats and this banded variation, cable pull-throughs, and the like.

 

If you’ve got a super neat trick for strengthening or waking up your glutes, please let me know here or on Facebook! Project Save Stephanie’s Squat is in full swing, and hopefully a few others can get a good glute rescue in along with me!

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Acknowledging and Addressing Weaknesses- Glute Activation

  1. I have no doubt that you’ll make significant progress in the role your glutes play on the stage and platform. I am already excited to see seem seriously huge numbers on your lifts the next time you compete! Glute gains, ftw!!

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  2. I saw it right away, but was sure you will too – and you did!
    I am also sure you will do everything to fix it, and you are.
    Great information, thank you for compiling it!

    Like

    1. Hi welcome!!! Yes, yes, I’ve read this article probably ten times- I could recite it to you! My brain knows all the things, you know? It’s the translation to the body that’s taking time. Things have DEFINITELY improved, though. I posted a video on Instagram today of last night’s squat session. A few singles at 240 aren’t perfect, but are a huge improvement from the same weight at my December meet. I’ve been working so hard on these squats!

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