By Dr. Leo Cornelius
We often get asked what is the most common condition we see? The answer is always low back pain. Millions of Australians suffer from Low back pain. Statistics show that 70-90% of Australians will suffer back pain at some point in their lives. It can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause at times – there are muscles, joints, ligaments, discs and connective tissue that could be responsible for the pain. What we do know is that a majority of people that experience back pain also have weak glute muscles.
Why is that?
A lot of us have jobs where we sit down most of the time – at a desk, in front of a computer, even in meetings. Sitting for extended periods shortens our hip flexors, in turn relaxing our glutes by a process called reciprocal inhibition. It’s no surprise, that if the glutes are being told to relax for 8 hours a day, that they become weak. How do we strengthen them?
Firstly, we gotta get those glutes activating properly. There’s no point doing exercises to strengthen a muscle if it’s not activating and firing.
Sitting in a chair, clench your bum muscles. I like to alternate each side. You should feel yourself lift slightly off the seat. Can’t feel your bum clench? Tap the side of your bum while you clench it. This is called kinaesthetic awareness. It’ll tell the brain ‘Hey, remember me? It’s time to do some work’. This’ll improve the neural connection from the brain to the muscle.
Start small. The gluteal muscle is often weak, so we want to load it gradually to build up strength. Start with some Supine Glute bridges (or more commonly known, the pelvic thrust). If you ever watched Aerobics Oz Style, you’ll be familiar with these:
- Lie on your back, knees bent
- Push through your heels and lift your bum off the floor, really squeezing your butt at the top
- Make sure your knees don’t drop in at the top
- Control the descent as you lower back down.
The Squat is the most functional movement we do – we use it to sit, to stand up, lift things and even bending over. We have great technique as babies, but somehow as we get older, we develop bad habits which result in poor form. Here are some tips to ensure your form is spot on:
- Keep your stance slightly wider than hip width, with slight turnout at the hips
- Keeping your chest up and arms straight in front of you, bend at the hips like you’re sitting down on a chair
- bend your knees, ensuring they track over your outer toes and don’t come past the tips of your feet
- Aim for your thighs parallel to the floor – you don’t need to go any further
- Push through your heels and contract your bum when you reach the top