Monday, February 1, 2010

Bring Up The Glutes

It's been a busy few weeks so apologies for not posting more, but that's how it goes. The opportunity came up to be a Master Instructor for Equinox, so had to take (and ace) an exam on short notice.

But back to business Men's Health UK ran another article I wrote for them in the strength test series. This one concerns the legs, and in particular the posterior chain. I find most guys really lacking in this department so without further ado:

Your glutes and hamstrings form part of the posterior chain, which is the foundation of any great athlete. Says personal trainer Chris Bathke, “The gluteus maximus and hamstrings function together to extend the hips and flex the knee, so isolation movements such as the leg curl are inferior when it comes to building some real strength. This test will introduce you to one of the toughest lower-body movements out there.”

The glute ham raise

Using the lat pulldown station, kneel on the seat pad facing away from the machine with your feet anchored under the pad normally used to place your knees under. Place a bench in front of you at about arm's length. You can also do a manual version by kneeling on the floor and having a partner hold your ankles down.

Keeping your stomach and glutes tight throughout, lower yourself slowly until parallel to the floor, or until you can't hold yourself up anymore. Catch yourself at the bottom with your hands on the bench. Then raise yourself back up to the starting position by contracting your hamstrings and glutes and drawing your body back up to vertical. “You can use a slight push off with your hands at the bottom when starting, but eventually you'll want to use only your legs,” says Bathke. Do not allow your hips to shoot back at the beginning and try to keep a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. If you bend at the hips, you're doing it wrong.

Build it up

The test is to do 8 perfect reps. “This means that your hips should be level with your body the entire time, that you can lower yourself all the way down with no hands, and that you are using your arms only for the slightest push off at the bottom,” explains Bathke. If you can't do 8 – and chances are you won't at first – then start with 3 sets of 5 once a week. Each week add a rep until you can do 3 sets of 8 and try to use less upper-body assistance each time.

Raise the bar

“Soon, you'll likely notice your performance increase in every lower-body exercise, so start adding in deadlifts to really bring up the posterior,” says Bathke. “Once a week begin your session with bar-bell deadlifts.” Start with 3 sets of 8 with a weight you can do for 10 reps maximum, and focus on proper technique. After four weeks do 3 sets of 5 with an 8-rep maximum. “Seek to increase the weight in 2kg increments each week for the next 4 weeks, then retest what you can do for 8 reps.”

Stay tuned for the back test...

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