In part one of the series we discussed mobility problems of the thoracic spine athletes develop while sitting hunched over in class all day. Although getting athletes to stand more in class would be ideal, it is not necessarily practical. The constant sitting leads athletes to shut off one of the strongest groups of muscles in the body and tightens an area needed for optimal movement.
The glutes are comprised of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. All three muscles perform various functions and are critical in athletic success. Glute development has been front and center in the fitness world for years. Every commercial on the television is usually advertising a magic piece of equipment for bigger arms, flatter stomachs and bigger butts. None of these commercials however function beyond aesthetic purposes. The importance of glute function has been growing in recent years thanks to research done by Bret Contreras. He has written extensively about the glutes and his work can be found at www.bretcontreras.com There is absolutely no chance I can match his knowledge of glute function and development so for the purposes of this article, understand that weak glutes equal weak athletes.
I am a big believer in attacking deficiencies in youth athletes very aggressively. Not only are all of these athletes young, they also have a very minimal training age. This is important because it basically means that we can do anything to improve their strength and size simply because the body is going to rapidly adapt. This is a critical time to address proper movement and develop strength in foundational muscles like the glutes. Since the athletes sit everyday in class, it is appropriate to perform some type of glute activation and/or strength exercise on a daily basis. The squat is still the king of exercises for developing lower body strength and power. We can keep the squat or some form of a lower body push (lunge, step up, etc.) as our main exercise of the day and support it with posterior chain moves that target the glutes.
Easy exercise selections are the deadlift and hip thrust. These should be staples in the program and progressed appropriately for the athlete. The problem with both these exercises is that they only function in the sagittal plane. The sagittal plane separates the body into a right and left half, dealing mostly with flexion and extension of joints. We need to increase the frequency of training in the frontal plane with our athletes. The frontal plane splits the body into a front and back half and typically deals with abduction and adduction of joints. Exercises in the frontal plane include banded lateral glute walks and side lying leg raise.
Seeing as the glutes are such a critical part of athletic development and performance, I believe they should be tackled on a daily basis regardless of what phase your program is in. During the GPP and/or hypertrophy phase, feel free to go hard with high rep development on a daily basis. As you progress towards your strength blocks I would begin to incorporate exercises into the warm up or supersetted with lifts on upper body days. This would be the time to do heavy deadlifts or hip thrusts on their own days. Once you begin a more sport specific phase, I would lighten the load and focus on moving as explosively as possible.
Sled Drag for Distance
High Rep Band Hip Thrusts
8-10 Rep RDL
Lateral Glute walks
Glute activation exercises during warm up
Heavy hip thrusts
5-8 Rep RDL
Sled Drags for Weight
Banded Glute Exercises on Upper body Days
Glute Activation Exercises During Warm Up
Power/Sport Specific Block:
Band Resisted Heidens