Ask any individual what they think counts as a nice pair of glutes, and you’re likely to get a variety of responses.
Some like big glutes, some like small glutes. Some like firm glutes, and others like glutes that are a little more soft.
Me? I like glutes that are STRONG. Glutes that fire properly when we run and jump and squat. Glutes that are well-developed, not just in the gluteus maximus (ie. the big prominent part we see), but also in the gluteus medius & minimus.
Call me boring, but I like glutes that are functional.
The gluteus maximus is the largest and one of the strongest muscles in the body – and yet many individuals sustain injuries as a result of weak glutes. What gives?
It’s no secret that the vast majority of the Western population spends a ridiculous amount of time sitting on their derrieres. Sitting and eating breakfast, sitting in the car on the way to work, sitting at work, and then sitting on the couch in the evening.
They may throw a run or a workout somewhere in the mix, but they’re still spending a large portion of their time sittin’ on their behinds.
The result? Lazy asses. Our poor glutes have to deal with the constant contraction party that’s going on in the hip flexors, so they just shut off. They don’t fire up properly, which means their job of stabilizing the hip isn’t getting done.
We’re also a very quad-dominant species. Between running, walking, cycling, and not knowing how to use our glutes properly, we end up putting more emphasis on the quadriceps during squats and lunges (and more stress on the knees) while we neglect our poor posterior chain.
Combine our love for quads with our weak and lazy glutes and we’ve got a recipe for injury. Not only do weak glutes put runners at risk of sustaining injuries such as iliotibial band syndrome, patellofemoral syndrome, and even shin splints, they can also cause lower back pain and the dreaded piriformis syndrome in runners and non-runners alike (Tonley, et al, 2010).
Fortunately, there is a solution 🙂
Deadlifts in their various forms are ah-MAZING for strengthening the glutes, along with the hamstrings. And when prepared for properly, they also help to wake up and strengthen our gluteus medius & minimus!
While weak and lazy gluteals lead to injury, strong & powerful glutes lead to improved athletic performance. You’ll run faster and get up those darn hills more easily.You’ll have a strong and complete pedal stroke on the bike. You’ll recruit the proper muscles while squatting and lunging, which means you’ll get more bang for your exercise buck AND you’ll take some of the pressure off your knees.
There are a variety of deadlifts to choose from, each providing their own benefit. I will say right off the bat that deadlifts have the potential to be a higher-risk exercise, so please please PLEASE ensure you are practicing proper form when performing a deadlift.
A specific how-to for each variation is beyond the scope of this particular post, but I would be happy to answer any questions pertaining to deadlifts & your fabulously unique body. Feel free to reach out to me here. Otherwise, consult your favourite fitness professional before giving them a shot. A YouTube how-to is probably not the best option 😉
The Barbell Deadlift
Performed in the conventional stance or sumo stance, this type of deadlift involves picking a heavy barbell up off the ground and placing it back down.
Conventional and sumo deadlifts allow you to move A LOT of weight, which A) helps build massive strength all through your posterior chain (especially the glutes) and B) makes you feel like a total badass.
Barbell deadlifts can also be performed in the Romanian or stiff-legged variety. These two terms are often used interchangeably, but there are subtle differences between each. The main difference between the Romanian/stiff-legged and conventional/sumo deadlifts is that whereas the latter deadlifts begin and end on the ground, the former never touch the ground. #NowYouKnow
The Kettlebell Deadlift
The kettlebell deadlift is a fantastic way to practice the hinge patterning of a deadlift with an external load, with a little bit less going on than there is in with barbell deadlifts. This makes it a better learning tool.
Plus, kettlebells are far more portable than big heavy barbells. Invest in a heavy kettlebell for your home gym and you can deadlift to your heart’s content!
The Single Leg Deadlift
Single leg deadlifts are excellent for building single leg strength and stability (duh). This is important, because we want to ensure that the right glute is just as strong as the left, and vice versa. Plus, for you runners out there, when you run you are constantly on one leg! It’s incredibly beneficial to train your body with single leg work.
You can practice single leg deadlifts with a dumbbell or kettlebell in each hand, you could perform an offset deadlift and hold a weight in one hand and stand on the opposite leg, OR you can practice the movement without any weight. Unweighted single leg deadlifts (which I often refer to as single leg hip hinges), should be practiced before adding any extra weight to get the form down pat.
While deadlifts are fantastic for developing strength and improving power in the gluteus maximus, we want to ensure the glute medius & minimus are getting the love as well. Fortunately, glute activation exercises that wake these little glutes up, like single leg glute bridges, clam shells, and hip abductions, are a great way to warm up for deadlifts.
There are a number of ways you can work deadlifts into your strength training program, but this is one of my favourites:
So there you have it! A variety of deadlifts to choose from that will give you a strong and powerful (and visually appealing 😉 ) gluteus maximus, and warm-up exercises that will wake up your gluteus medius and minimus and prepare you to rock your deads.
As I mentioned above, deadlifts are a complex movement with the potential for injury if performed incorrectly. If you’re unsure of how to perform a deadlift or whether your form is correct or not, hit me up! We’ll get on Skype for a little chat. And please remember, that while I am a personal trainer, I’m not YOUR personal trainer (unless I actually am!). Always consult a health care practitioner before beginning a new exercise program.Want strong glutes? Its time to #deadlift! http://wp.me/p5AzsA-1Gw via @arianafotinakis #runchat #sweatpink Click To Tweet
Do you incorporate deadlifts into your routine? If so, what’s your fav style? If not, what’s holding you back?
Tonley, J.C., Yun, S.M., Kochevar, R.J., Dye, J.A., Farrokhi, S., & Powers, C.M. (2010). Treatment of an Individual With Piriformis Syndrome Focusing on Hip Muscle Strengthening and Movement Reeducation: A Case Study. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 40(2): 103-111.