The glutes are super important…just make sure the exercise you choose is actually working the glutes!!!!

Posted: July 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

Ever have one of those days where the exercise you prescribe just doesn’t do the trick?

Yea, me too.

It happened to me this past week.

I had 3 people in a row who needed glute activation exercises. Interestingly, one had back pain, one knee pain, and the last had ankle pain. (This alone should give a little clue into just how important proper glute activation is for everyone.)

So naturally I started with something safe, easy, and convenient… Glute Bridge. It keeps the spine neutral, needs no equipment,  and can be done right on the table or mat.

Check this one out:

Unfortunately, I just wasn’t getting the glute activation I wanted. The core was sloppy and most of the extension was coming from the low back and not the glutes.

I needed a different exercise…fast.

When in doubt, try the deadlift.

Need a birthday gift for the girlfriend? Get her a deadlift.

Thirsty? Try a deadlift.


And if you don’t have the equipment for a deadlift? Try a pull through.

That’s what I did. For whatever reason, that day it just worked. All three people, with very little correction, used a proper hinge pattern and started to “feel it” in their glutes.

***Actually, I have a theory (this may or may not be supported by EMG/research, I have no idea. Anywho, this just popped into my head as I was watching Americas Got Talent reading a book.) So my theory: Due to the angle of the pull through, that if done correctly, there is a huge (bro-science term) eccentric loading component to glutes. We know already the amount of muscle fiber recruitment required for eccentric exercise is superior to that of concentric exercise AND since a pull through is always initiated with the eccentric component first, you are almost ‘waking up’ the glutes during the initiation of the exercise therefore making true hip extension (and not low back extension) a bit easier for the patient to feel. After you watch the last video in this post, re-read this paragraph and I think it may all make sense.

With one patient in particular, we improvised the clinical audit process. Test/Treat/Re-Test.

Test: Glute Bridge. This particular person was extending through the low back, buckling at the core, and actually felt pain in the lumbar spine.

Treat: Pull through. After about 40 total reps, this patient felt glute activation and totally extended through her hips (not her low back)

Re-Assess: Glute Bridge. Extension through the hips, no low back pain.

Let’s take a look at some:

Now I’m not saying this is wrong, I’m just saying this is not what I am specifically looking for because of the amount of low back flexion and extension (I want to teach hip motion).

Now check this one out:

Here, the hip hinge is much better. However, I’m not a fan of the neck position because of the hyperextension of the upper cervical spine.

Finally, let’s take a look at perfect form:

Great hip hinge. Little, if any low back motion. Finally, the cervical spine stays neutral throughout the entire exercise.

Insert witty conclusion here


  1. […] the hip hinge and glute firing pattern has been the pull through, which I talked about in detail here. Often times, people with low back pain can get a 50-60% reduction just by utilizing a loaded hip […]

  2. Nicolás Sepúlveda says:

    In this link ( there’s an article about descending modulation of pain, in relation to that article or to any reference of your preference, through what mechanism do you think this exercise diminishes low back pain? Thanks!

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