Three Steps to a Better Backside

02.11.2011 | by:

GluteDespite assertions to the contrary by the women I have dated, I feel I can make the case that I know a fair bit about the opposite sex. Case in point:

• I train over 50 women from ages 16-78 two to three times per week
• I constantly force these women to perform push ups while barking orders to stick their chests out
• I somehow get away with cues like “squeeze the butt cheeks” and “thrust the hips forward” without getting slapped.

The list goes on and on.

My point is that, at least when it comes to the body, I have become quite good at recognizing the causes of issues faced by women. And one of the common denominators I see in the majority of females that I screen are jacked up feet and ankles.

When asked to squat to the floor, most women will immediately come forward on to their toes. This is an indication of a lack of the ability to sit back on their heels and diminished ankle mobility.

The problem this presents for women versus men is that wearing elevated shoes (or high heels) further reduces the already diminished base of support in the inflexible foot/ankle to the space of a dime or quarter.

In the absence of a broad and flexible surface to dissipate the force generated by each step, the shock that is supposed to be absorbed by the foot is instead transferred increasingly to the the ankle, knees and low back.

Over time, an issue which begins at the feet can alter the positions of key areas (pelvis, knees, etc) throughout the body which lead to pain in these areas. I have even seen chronic headaches and neck pain largely diminished or eliminated by addressing the foot/ankle only.

While I am not claiming to be able to cure all issues facing women, I do know that many postural problems, poor gluteal definition and pain often start from the ground up.

With this in mind, join me as I delve in to what I have learned about women (and even a few men) to improve performance and appearance while reducing pain. And it only takes around five minutes per day.

Getting to know Your Backside:

Without question, the number one question I get from women is how to achieve a better backside. Should we do more glute bridges, throw in some leg raises or perhaps simply improve our diet? My answer: stretch the calves and cut down on or stop wearing heels.

Though this response has never made me popular with the ladies, I challenge all my clients to put this to the test by bending down and touching the toes (while keeping the legs straight). If you cannot reach the bottom (or are several inches short), you possess general inflexibility of the muscles/structures of the backside of the body (hamstrings, calves, thoracolumar fascia, etc).

The interesting thing about these muscles is that they are connected by a layer of connective tissue (fascia) which begins at the bottom of our feet. Often, this layer of tissue becomes knotted up and pulled out of place in the presence of constant pounding (think running or wearing heels)

Because this fascia runs in a line directly up through the calves, hamstrings and all the way to the scalp, this causes a downward “pull” and general tightening of all of these structures. This means that the first order of business in addressing this issue begins by at the bottom of the foot.

If you have experienced foot cramping, issues with your toes, or any type of “itis” in this area, simply standing on a tissue ball for 1-2 minutes per day will appear to be magic. Expanding upon this concept, we can also address muscles which are affected by this line in a similar manner demonstrated in our first video.

Tightening up lose ends:

Because a muscle can develop tension from either tightened or stretched excessively, either scenario can result in what seems like stiffness. But one training difference between the sexes is that while inflexibility almost always accompanies pain in men, women often possess too much flexibility (or laxity) in this same situation

While mobility and stretching is effective after rolling for men, women generally benefit from strengthening exercises for key stabilizers of the body.

Starting from the ground up, this means reestablishing strength and stability in muscles such as the intrinsics of the foot, calves and external rotators of the hip. In our second video, we demonstrate several exercises to achieve this purpose after rolling with the tennis ball.

Making Everything Zen:

After working on mobility and stability of the individual muscles along the backside of the body, our final step is to integrate these muscles together as a unit. By performing integrated dynamic movements and poses which engage this entire line, we stretch the fascial connection between the feet and the rest of the body to allow for better movement and alleviated stiffness.

In our final video, I demonstrate several poses which improve the connection of muscles along the backside of our body. While these moves should be performed to improve tissue and movement quality, this series of poses is also a fantastic warm up for activities for running or sports and/or general stiffness after sitting or standing in place for long periods.

Creative Commons License illustration credit: Alex Hughes