09 May The Most Important Training Tip To Unlock Your Performance.
There is an obvious solution to maximizing performance in nearly every functional exercise or training approach.
First, I want you to think about the power you need to perform ballistic kettlebell exercises (the swing, the clean, the snatch) and the slow, grind exercises (the squat, the turkish get up, and the press).
Nest, think about the explosive Olympic lifts (the clean and jerk and the snatch).
And finally, the power lifts (the squat, the deadlift, and even the bench press).
Let’s not forget the proper execution of bodyweight training and movements.
What do ALL of these have in common?
There is one powerful thing.
It’s the common thread in using the power of your glutes (gluteus maximus and other gluteal muscles).
This is, without question, the key to maximizing training performance.
Ignore this advice and your training will lag.
Take action with this and your training will elevate.
It’s up to you.
It’s that simple and that important.
The glutes (I’m going to focus on the gluteus maximus here) are responsible for hip extension (*other actions are external rotation and abduction).
Along with the hamstring group of muscles, the glute max is a very powerful hip extensor and one of the largest muscles in the human body.
As mentioned above, it’s involved in everything, all the big, most important lifts.
Here’s the problem.
Most people DO NOT tap into this muscle to maximize power and performance.
It’s the weirdest thing, but I see it over and over again with so many people.
We “forget” to use our glutes.
I heard a wonderful term (not sure where I first heard it though) for this which is called “gluteal amnesia” and it’s one of the worst syndromes I’ve ever seen.
But, not only is it fully preventable, it’s also fixable.
Learning how to fully activate your glutes is as simple as squeezing your cheeks together in a hard contraction.
Yeah, “squeeze your glutes hard” and squeeze them often so that you get used to using them.
In the kettlebell swing, newbies need to be constantly reminded to “squeeze the glutes,” “power the hips,” or “use explosive hip drive.”
Whatever the cue, the thing we’re after is using the power of the glutes.
Here’s a really simple way to find out exactly how to really fire your glutes.
Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees with your arms at your side.
Now, drive your hips up slowly so that your body (trunk) forms a straight line from shoulders to your knees (I’m sure you know, this is a bridge).
You can’t NOT use your glutes for the bridge and it forces you to contract them hard.
The bridge exercise is easily one of the most effective ways to activate your glutes and I’ve used it with great success to pattern hip extension prior to swinging a kettlebell effectively.
You can use it to program the swing (or other exercises) but it doesn’t always hold up in the long term.
What I mean is that we need constant conditioning and drills to continually activate the glutes until the point that it becomes automatic.
At some point, it will be conditioned and an engrained motor pattern, but it will require a lot of conscious effort to continually fire the glutes appropriately.
Here’s a list of suggestions to help activate the glutes (these are all great drills):
- Bridges (as above)
- Single leg bridges Bridges with one leg, keep the other leg bent or flexed.
- Single leg dead lifts (keeping the body straight, hinge at the hip and reach forward your arms while extending the opposite leg back)
- Bird Dogs (on hands and knees, slowly extend your opposite arm and leg. Keep the extended leg in a “toes up” or dorsiflexed position for maximal glute acivation)
- Prone hip extension (on your stomach, slowly extend a straight leg off the floor)
These are all simple, really effective drills to help activate the glutes.
This can be done prior to a training session or even on “off” days to help recruit muscle firing.
Remember, the key is to build a pattern of glute activation so that it becomes “automatic” in the major kettlebell, barbell, and other lifts and activities.
The drills are great, but an important point to remember is that this needs to be translated to the lifts.
For example, the drills help to link up what it feels like to really engage and activate the glutes.
Now, the next step has to be to fire the glutes (as appropriate) for the exercise.
A great example is the kettlebell military press.
Here’s something I continually work on.
I clean the kettlebell to the rack position. Before pressing the kettlebell overhead, you can be sure I’m squeezing my glutes REALLY hard to set a stable base and engage my entire body for a more effective press. (*To see all the details on maximizing your press, click here.)
This is just one example. You can apply the same principle to the squat, deadlift, bench press, and many other lifts.
I want you to remember that using your glutes effectively is the key to unlocking your potential.
Look at any athlete and athletic movement.
Powerful hip extension (as done by the gluteals) is the common thread to maximizing performance and getting a better result.
The glutes are critical in almost every major exercise, so you’re not getting the most out of your training if the glutes aren’t firing properly.
I would take a hard look at your training and determine if you need to integrate more “glute activation” work and conditioning.
I know I am.
I want to do everything humanly possible to avoid the dreaded “gluteal amnesia” syndrome.
It’s very simple, unlock your potential by activating your glutes.