Our motor control system, which is controlled by the cerebellum in the brain, is responsible for coordinated neurological firing and is in charge of stability, balance, postural control, coordination, and perception. In order for our bodies to complete any given task the brain sends signals through the spine for execution. Movement is achieved through systems or patterns rather than individual muscles.

The patterns we develop over our lives to complete specific tasks are unconscious and habitual. They are a result of nature and nurture. We see our parents move and we copy them. Our movement patterns are a result of what we do everyday.

Movement and posture are also affected by our emotional state. Modern dance pioneer and lifelong student of bodily motion, Martha Graham, was forever impacted by the comment her father made to her when catching her in a lie as a young girl, saying: “Movement never lies.”


Our bodies will do whatever they need to complete a given task and the patterns we develop are not always optimal. A dysfunctional pattern will cause injury over time. However, since movement is a habit, we can change it.

The gluteus maximus is the largest and most powerful muscle in the body. It is a core stabilizer responsible for hip extension and external rotation. The gluteus medius and gluteus minimus work together to abduct the hip (pull the thigh away from the midline) and help support the body on one leg during gait in concert with the tensor fasciae latae.

When the hip is in a flexed position, the gluteus medius and minimus internally rotate the thigh and when the hip is extended, they externally rotate the thigh preventing the knee from falling inwards (valgus collapse) which causes dysfunction at the hip, knees, and ankles. While the glutes have many responsibilities, they actually tend toward inhibition.

An inhibited muscle means that the muscle is not optimally “hooked-up” to the motor control system and therefore, does not fire (turn on) quick enough in a specific pattern. It is important to distinguish that inhibition does not refer to the strength of a muscle, it refers to a neurological connection. This connection must be working properly before building strength.

You can imagine that with all the responsibilities of the glutes, that if they are not “hooked-up” properly with the motor control system, a myriad of problems can occur. For example, the gluteus maximus must function properly in concert with other muscles for gait. The glutes are major propulsion muscles and produce powerful locomotion.

The gluteus maximus contracts along with the opposite latissimus dorsi during heel strike. If the gluteus maximus is not firing optimally, the energy produced during locomotion can get stored up in the thoraco-lumbar fascia and cause lower back pain. This is just one of a myriad of problem that are caused by weak or inhibited glutes.

SI joint dysfunction, runner’s knee, plantar fascists, shin splints, achilles tendinitis, lower back pain, etc, can all be caused by underlying gluteal dysfunction.

Connect your Brain and Butt_2

One reason for inhibited gluteal muscles is our evolution towards a daily life of more sedentary routine. Excessive sitting can cause the hip flexors (opposite muscle group to the glutes) to become short and over-active, thereby inhibiting the gluteals. Too much time spent in seated
positioning is not the only thing that can cause the gluteals to shut down.

Certain sports are highly asymmetric activities and can cause imbalances in the body. Golf is a great example. Injury can also create asymmetries and compensation patterns. Pain is a survival mechanism that causes the body to alter movement as protection.

Depending on the particular injury and rehabilitation process, once the pain subsides and the injury “heals” the body’s muscle memory may have already stored compensatory movement patterns that are less than optimal. This is why it is important to re-learn proper movement patterns when recovering from an injury.

To reactivate the gluteal muscles first the neuromuscular connection must be restored and then the muscle can be strengthened. During the restoration process, it is easy for the body to return to it’s previous pattern if the exercise or activity is progressed too fast. This is why it is important to have the help of an educated professional for a full recovery.

The following exercise program is just a guideline to restore and strengthen the gluteal muscles. If you have an injury and suspect inhibited gluteals I highly recommend seeking the help of a qualified professional so they can determine what is causing the inhibition and correct it properly.

Strengthening the connection

Heel press to floor

-Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor in one line with the hips, knees, and ankles.

-Press your heel to the floor and concentrate on the strength of the contraction at the buttocks. You should first try this one side at a time and notice if there is any difference in strength. If you feel the calfs working too much, lift the toes up and press only the heels to the floor.

Pelvic curls

-Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor in one line with the hips, knees, and ankles.

-Begin engaging the buttocks as performed above in the Heel Press. Then bring the pubic bone to the sky and continue to roll up sequentially through your spine onto your shoulders. Make sure you are engaging your abdominals so you do not arch your lower back.

-Roll down to the starting position from the top of the spine. Be careful not to tense up your shoulders and neck here.

-Optional Progression: Try with one leg extended to the ceiling with a flexed foot. As you lower your hips pull the knee of the extended leg to the chest and then press the hips back up while pressing the heel of the extended leg back to the ceiling.

Integrating the pattern


-Stand tall with the arches of your feet lined up with the outside of your hips. Engage your buttocks and legs by performing a “corkscrew” action, engaging the muscles of the legs while maintaining your feet in a firmly planted position. Hands can be behind the head to help keep the spine upright.

-Flex at the hips by sending them straight behind you. This is the hip hinge, an important function for bending properly. As you continue to send the hips back in space, using this hip hinge, maintain the torso in one place so you eventually become parallel to the floor in a flat
back position rather than collapsing and rounding the spine.

-Re-engage the buttocks and legs by pressing the hips forward to bring the torso back to the upright starting position.

-Optional Progressions: Use a kettlebell or weighted bar maintained close to the body. Once you are able to perform cleanly, progress to the single leg deadlift.


-Step out with one leg far enough that when you descend, your knees bend at 90 degree angles and do not move forward beyond the ankles.

Keep your hands behind your head and your torso vertical. As you descend, the back heel will lift and the back knee will lower straight down until it almost touches the floor. Make sure the knees do not push inwards toward the midline of the body, but remain in line with the hips and ankles. Also make sure the hips remain on the same plane.

-To return to the starting position press down through the front heel to re-engage the buttocks. Repeat for the desired amount of reps and then switch sides.

-Optional Progression: Add torso rotation towards the front leg while maintaining a stable base. Make sure the arms move in opposition to the lower body just like in gait.

Single leg step-ups

-Start with one leg up on a step. The opposite arm is forward. Make sure hips, knees, and ankles are aligned and that the hip of the lead leg is not hiked up.

-Press down into the heel of the lead leg and step up to balance. As you are stepping up, move the rear leg forward with the knee on that leg bent at 90 degrees. Allow the arms to switch naturally so they are again in opposition to the lower body. This will help with balance.

-Stay tall as you send the leg that is up back down to the starting position. Repeat for the desired amount of reps and then switch sides.

-Optional Progression: If you do not have shoulder issues try holding a kettlebell firmly overhead in the opposite arm of the leg that is lifting from back to up, keeping the arm in a neutral position throughout the exercise. The arm should make a straight line over the body. It is imperative that the spine remain in a neutral position.

Loved the tips? Make sure you nourish your body properly for this workout by picking up a balanced diet plan, designed by a nutritionist.

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