Friday, September 18, 2009

Gluteus Maximus

Just read Dispelling the Glute Myth by Bret Contreras over at T-Nation. I do like Bret's progressions to take some basic single-joint exercises and overload them. While I like many of the concepts of the article (I agree that the glutes are a key), the one important point I take away is sprinting. Maybe this is because I've posted about this in the past, but I think coordinated macro-movements are the bread and butter, especially in my context.

The most important message I take away here is in Bret's bulletpoints in the article are:

• A sprint activates 234% more mean gluteus maximus muscle than a vertical jump.

• Due to the increased glute activation, sprinters commonly experience "butt-lock;" whereas repetitive vertical jumpers experience "quad-lock."

• Hip extension exercises that mimic sprinting have horizontal or anteroposterior directional load vectors, involve hip hyperextension, and include reverse hypers, back extensions, hip thrusts, pendulum quadruped hip extensions, and pull throughs.

The important point to take away from this thought-provoking article is to get sprinting more. Lots of quality things happen when sprinting is part of one's training, much beyond just better glutes. Bottom line is, if "functional" is the way to go, then let's practice moving functionally.

Couple previous thoughts on sprinting:

#16 is one to look at here. The reference is at the end of the article.

Acceleration and Absolute Speed



Mark Young said...

Hey Aaron,

I also liked some of Bret's ideas despite the fact that I think his ego got a little ahead of the content in that article.

One thing I think is often forgotten though is that the EMG to force relationship doesn't exactly hold true all the time (especially when using surface electrodes).

Even in Dr McGill's work they use complex modelling to PREDICT muscle forces in the low back. A simple surface EMG on a muscle does not necessarily represent the force of the muscle beneath it.

Further, I think Bret's stuff with EMG is an interesting start, but an N of 3 isn't exactly what I'd consider representative of the population as a whole.

Again, I did like some of his ideas, but I just think some of the justification has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Aaron Schwenzfeier said...

Thanks for the comments Mark.

I completely agree. Plus we are again, looking at a muscle, not necessarily movements, or just one joint movement. Things change quite drastically when one gets on their feet as many neurological factors now come into play.

Again, I like some of the concepts, but not necessarily the application, which is why I still believe the key to pull from this is sprinting.

From what I understand, from a function perspective, the glutes only really become a full participant in running, specifically faster running to sprinting.

I truly believe that the only way we can maintain a healthy, functioning body is by using all of our major physical capabilities. Simply use it or lose it... and it isn't too often you see people, outside of the very, very few that are involved in competitive athletics, and stuff you see from young kids on a playground, sprinting.

We are bipedal, forward moving beings, and when we only train limited speed of moving forward (slow walking or that sluggish thing we call 'jogging') we lose lots of our youthful capacities... one being the function of our glorious glutes!

Thanks again Mark for the great insights. Always appreciated.


Mike T Nelson said...

Great discussion guys and great stuff as always!

I would agree on EMG data from what I know. It is also not always clear cut and the raw data can actually be quite "messy"

Interestingly enough (n=1), once I add more sprinting in Vibrams, upper t-spine mobility work (more than usual) and a few heavy sled pulls (more acceleration based), my glute max was sore as hell!

It seems like once my upper t-spine, viola, glute max to go! In hindsight, my lumbar area was also much better, so perhaps less trapping of the inferior gluteal nerve perhaps.

Probably explains the slight lumbar movement in elite sprinters too---nice mobile lumbar area allow optimal movement of the gluteal nerve, so less shut down on glute max. thoughts?

Sprinting is amazing work for the adductors and "core" also due to the violent force transfer across the body. Sprinting WELL is highly underrated. The downside is most don't sprint well. You don't have to Usain Bolt or Tyson Gay, but having a coach show you a few pointers is a great start.

Aaron, have you tested any of the glute drills that he did? I am going to test out a few hopefully this week.

Funny, still no mention of cuboid area foot/ankle work to get the glute med to fire up.

rock on
Mike T Nelson PhD(c)

Aaron Schwenzfeier said...

Thanks for the comments Mike, good thoughts.

I have tested/practiced a few of the exercises... some were okay for me.

jleeger said...

I like it too, but I tend to be bored by prescriptions like this...

I think these general prescriptions (overload single joint movements), etc., as well-intentioned as they may be, and as good as they might be for certain individuals at certain times, ignore that you're dealing with individuals. This type of action isn't necessarily the best for that person at x time, just because it recruits the glute max/min/med or whatever the most.

What does that individual need at that point in time?

First, get the individual into good structural position to perform movement.

Then, make sure they don't have any pathology that is prohibiting them from moving well (i.e., muscular inhibition, etc.).

Then, get them to train the way they want to move.

Sprints are awesome though! I especially love sprints on the Prowler. You used one of those Aaron? That thing is ridiculous!

jleeger said...


Anonymous said...

good points and the details are more precise than somewhere else, thanks.

- Thomas