If you live an active lifestyle, you begin to take a few things for granted. Vacations seem to bring out the big issues. I have a few warning signs: if I find that I cover up more at the pool or beach, if suitcases need to be roller bags if I am more than fifty feet from my destination or if the idea of a hot, panting vacation experience is climbing the steps up to the next floor to get ice, it might be time for me to reflect on the basics of fitness.
On this last trip, I didn’t have those issues. But my good friend, Edna, did. Edna has been gaining weight for the past few years and her concerns lead us to a discussion by the pool. And, like most people who have lost condition she had one big problem and she was sitting on it.
If I had a magic wand of fitness, it would be to grant a set of glutes to each and everyone. I gave Edna a simple assessment: holding both of her hands, I asked to squat down between her legs. Not only could she not achieve the position, she had to lean forward, fold forward really, to stand back up as I pulled her into a stand.
The glutes are the big engines of the human body. They literally make us human in comparison to our primate brothers and sisters. Ignoring them leads to more than just a saggy bottom, ignoring the glutes means less power, less speed and, frankly, the look of old age. Let’s wake them up again.
Ideally, if you are squatting deep and heavy, practicing your deadlift and doing your Farmer Walks, much of you butt work is being addressed. If you need to relearn your squat, let’s take care of this first. I have a theory that there are three tests that can give you an insight on your fitness age:
Can you Standing Long Jump at least your height?
Can you hang from a bar for at least 30 seconds?
Can you sit in a deep squat for 30 seconds and stand up without any help?
If you can do all three, maintain those “yeses” for as long as you possibly can.
The first key to waking up your glutes is remember how to squat. There is one big concept: you don’t squat ON your legs like an accordion, you squat between your legs. I teach this with two drills. First, stand tall and hold a weight (a light dumbbell is all you really need) in your hands straight down. Your hands should be just inside your legs. Now, squat down feeling your hands then forearms then upper arms push the thighs apart as you “find space” between your legs.
This skin on skin contact will allow you to trust yourself to slide your body between your legs. I call this the Potato Sack Squat because it looks like how you gently put a heavy sack on the floor. For many, this single exercise will illuminate the road for future squatting.
The next, of course, is the Goblet Squat. I came up with this exercise years ago attempting to teach a deep, authentic squat to a group of 65 fourteen year old athletes. It is this simple: hold a weight in front of your chest. Now, using your right elbow, push your right knee out. Then, use your left elbow to push your left knee out. Then, make your chest tall and, congrats, you are in a deep squat.
The best way I know to work the glutes is to work them in circuits. I like combining squats with Proper Push Ups. The Proper Push Up, from Gym Jones, is simple: It is a normal Push Up, except when your chest touches the ground, you extend both hands out into the T position. Then, return them into the typical Push Up position and press up. With every rep, you go to the floor and make the T position.
10 Goblet Squats/ 10 Proper Push Ups
9 Goblet Squats/ 9 Proper Push Ups
8 Goblet Squats/ 8 Proper Push Ups
7 Goblet Squats/ 7 Proper Push Ups
6 Goblet Squats/ 6 Proper Push Ups
5 Goblet Squats/ 5 Proper Push Ups
4 Goblet Squats/ 4 Proper Push Ups
3 Goblet Squats/ 3 Proper Push Ups
2 Goblet Squats/ 2 Proper Push Ups
1 Goblet Squat/ 1 Proper Push Up
If you really want to wake up the butt, try this complex, part of the “Buns and Guns” complex we do at my gym:
25 Hip Thrusts on the Floor
10 Goblet Squats
15 Kettlebell Swings
Lateral walk with mini-band around the socks (basically to failure…or until you run out of space)
Do this for two to five circuits.
I do this workout without equipment on many of my trips. I generally toss a mini-band in my luggage as it takes no space. In the hotel room, I do
25 Hip Thrusters
10 “Free” Goblet Squats (No weight)
15 Swings (Without weight, we call them “Stop and Pops,” focus on the plank at the top of the swing)
Lateral Walk with the Mini-Band
On this, you can use the Goblets as a “count down” to keep track of reps. On the first set, do 10, then 9,…all the way to One. If you want less work, try 10-8-6-4-2.
Keep your glutes alive but mastering the squat and training them hard. As you walk away from people on the beach, they will appreciate it, too.