No matter what type of workout you’re doing, there’s a very high chance that you’re instructed to squeeze your glutes at least once during the class. That’s all well and good (and even encouraged in certain exercises) but a physical therapist says that you can actually overdo it. And overdoing it can lead you to become a “butt-gripper,” which can wreck your body’s alignment (and your workout).
“If you’re constantly training your glutes to contract, eventually, they’ll never let go,” says Vinh Pham, PT and founder of Myodetox. “Over time, they become stuck in a posterior tilt.” The contraction of the glutes leads to a domino effect of a tilted pelvis, extended hip flexors, and excessive flexing of the lower spine. Over time, he says this can make you a buttgripper and lead to injury.
This isn’t to say that activating your glutes in certain exercises is completely wrong—but Pham stresses that overdoing it can lead you to remain in that tilted pelvic position, even once the exercise is completed. “That leaves you more vulnerable to injury, especially in your lower back, because your pelvis isn’t moving when you’re walking, sitting, or doing other things,” he says. The key is to “go half way,” says Pham, aka don’t clench your glutes as if your life depends on it but make sure the right muscles are activated. “People tend to squeeze as hard as they can, which can feel satisfying in the moment, but that’s overly contracting,” he says. “Think about bicep curls—you’re not squeezing your bicep that hard. The same goes with push-ups—you’re not squeezing your chest at the top.”
When you’re doing an exercise involving the glutes, like a deadlift, Pham also recommends to not focus too hard on just the muscle group that you’re isolating. “The body understands the motions, and will recruit the muscles needed. But the more you try and engineer a deadlift by over-contracting certain parts of your body, you’ll start to develop bad habits,” he says. Take it from a physical therapist and back out of overly contracting your glutes: You don’t want to be a butt-gripper.
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