As promised, the focus will now turn to strength training and we’ll start with your ass.
The glute complex (your hips) has the greatest potential for strength and power in the human body, is the foundation for all ground based movement and if used properly, lifts things up (like the grandkids) and spares the low back. Let’s call this the “lifting things up” or the deadlift pattern.
Because of the enormous amount of sitting done in our modern life style, many adults can’t find their glutes (through muscle activation) with a map, hand mirror and a flashlight. When you place them on their backs on the floor with their knees up and feet planted on the ground, then have them try to raise their hips off the floor by contracting just their glutes. Many will fire their hamstrings while their glutes remain totally quiet. This situation has been referred to as glute amnesia, a disconnect between brain and muscle. The body will find a way to accomplish the desired task by resorting to Plan B, in this case, the hamstrings, if the primary movers,the glutes, are off line. The hips will move off the ground but at a cost: inefficient movement, lower performance potential and higher risk of injury to the Plan B muscles and also to surrounding tissue and joints.
Learning to properly hinge the hips and to activate the glutes are critical for skilled and graceful movement as you age. This is life quality for now and into your future. So lets try the foundation movement, the hip hinge:
1. Stand with your feet about hip width apart and hands resting on the front of your thighs. You can also hold a light barbell or a pair of light dumbbells to provide a little resistance.
2. With your lower legs perpendicular to the ground, push your hips backward while bending forward at the hips. Your upper body will fold over with your back in a straight line from tail bone to the back of your head.
3. Do not squat and do not bend forward at the waist (lumbar spine).
Once your hands reach your knees, pause, focus on your glutes, tighten them as you try to push the ground away with your feet. Return to standing with a straight line from heels to the back of your head.
4. Rinse and repeat until the movement feels natural.
5. If in doubt, keep your hips higher while you bend forward and sense your upper body closing the distance with ground.
6. If you have health issues, balance problems or serious muscle weakness, seek proper medical assistance.
Your body is programmed to avoid falling on your face by trying to stay more upright and bending your knees more into a squat pattern if it doesn’t sense proper muscle activation. If you learn to position you skeleton into the correct architecture for the movement your attempting and recruit the target muscles for that movement, this case the glutes and core, you will not face dive. If you do splat, see 6# above and please post the video on YouTube.
Next, we will discuss actual deadlift exercises and program design ideas.