The major glute muscles, the gluteus maximus’ primary role is to support us in an upright position when standing and when walking.
If the pelvis is maintained in a neutral position, then the gluteus maximus muscle will automatically function and naturally activate under load.
However, if the pelvis is not in a neutral position, instead in an anteriorly tilted position, then the gluteus maximus muscle is no longer in a biomechanical position to carry out its natural role.
For the person with an anterior pelvic tilt, the majority of their body weight is distributed forward of their midline. The anterior muscles of the body, the hip flexor group predominantly compensate and take on much of the load.
This compensatory position becomes perpetuating - the anterior muscles become more dominate, overloaded, short and contracted which creates a further downward pressure on an already anteriorly tilted pelvis. This further negates the ability for the posterior muscles, gluteus maximus, hamstrings and adductor muscles from carrying out their role causing them to quickly atrophy (reduce in size and strength) due to the lack of stimulus.
With tight, shortened anterior muscles creating a downward force on the pelvis and weakened, elongated posterior muscles not able to support the pelvis in a neutral position the compensatory patterns are set in.
No amount of consciously activating, squeezing, trying to feel your glute muscles will override gravity. If all of your body weight is forward of your midline, then how on earth will squeezing your glute muscles or focusing on activating them correct this? Yet this is the approach taken by many healthcare practitioners and fitness trainers.
It can be a futile approach that holds absolutely no lasting effect. As soon as you complete the activation exercises then stand up - guess what, all your weight is back on your anterior muscles and the very muscles you were activating are still not in a position to carry out its correct function. You could literally do this all day for a hundred years and it would still not have any relevant or notable impact on its so-called chief aim - to get the glutes to activate during everyday activity.
A more practical approach is to focus on exercises or movement patterns that elongate (stretch) the tight, dominate anterior muscles whilst simultaneously strengthening the weak posterior muscles (the gluteus maximus being one of those).
The short-term benefit will be increased strength and growth to the gluteus maximus, however more importantly over time the compensatory position will be eradicated. Providing the right amount of resistance is added over time with sound technique, the pelvis will return to its neutral position. With a neutral pelvis the gluteus maximus muscle will be back in the perfect position to work all day every day to support the weight of your body when upright.
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