“I touch the sky when my knees hit the ground” – Hillsong
I was talking with a friend recently and we realized we both look at egg dying with all the fear and trepidation of Bambi accidentally released into the Mountain Lion cage at the zoo when funding is down. It’s one of those traditions that is just flat out a mess and, with teenage boys who make everything a joke, you can imagine what it was like in our house this year! Let’s put it this way, how many random things can you do with a boiled egg and 6 colors to make your brothers guffaw harder? Yeah, they tried them all! One of my sons has taken to saying in a goofy voice, “I am so sorry, Loretta.” Obnoxious and hilarious, both. In fact, as I type this blog post, my sons are belting out a dramatic version of the smooth as butter, “pickup” song “Take Your Time” by Sam Hunt. I’m totally fine with a boisterous dance party in my living room, as long as they get their jobs done at the same time. Lol. The girls and I are coloring eggs again “for real” Saturday. While we do all sorts of fun things, the bottom line of Easter is that God loves you and me. I think of the thousands of times that I made a real mess of things and I saw all God did with it, as I presented those self-created tornadoes to him on my knees. He has turned my dead ground into a hillside covered in stunning wildflowers. This Easter finds me with warm, crumbly, springtime peat on my knees, so grateful.
My boys have informed me that my glutes, as in Gluteus Maximus, derriere, tush, hiney or any other affectionate nicknames for that beloved body part, need a lot of work! While running has leaned out my body, I am definitely low on strength and shape, besides my legs, of course. They are totally right! No offense taken. I should add that they are incredibly proud of me for my hard work and very kind. But, boys in particular, I find, have a directness that is starkly truthful and, actually, as refreshing as mountain water, pure and a little shockingly cold. My main problem areas are my glutes, pecks, biceps, triceps, abs and core. Actually, that’s pretty standard with runners. So, recently, with a little bit of kicking and fussing to myself, I began strength training. It isn’t as restful as getting in the zone for 45 minutes running and I often run two miles in addition to the weights, just to feel like I’m sweating consistently. Old habits die hard.
My first day, I was boxing the air like a zealous, pro cage fighter or an aggressive mare, pawing the ground before a race. I was ready, able and about to kill those weights! It was at that point that my Junior football playing son came over to me, where I was lifting a minuscule amount on the seated calf machine, and added 150 pounds, “Mom. You’re not supposed to keep it so light that you can bounce your knees. Now, lift that!” He felt so sorry for my extreme ineptitude that he took me under his loving wing. And, later, as I grabbed for a piece of foam during squats for my neck, I did NOT whine when he told me the foam was embarrassing him. Oh no, I did not! You know what I did? I grunted in full beast mode and said, “Of course not! I was just moving that foam, so I could get to the 50 lb. weight!” Lol, oh dear. The truth is, I was terrible! I could only squat the bar! And, yes, I needed the foam as I added weight.
Actually, I am rarely embarrassed, don’t really care if I look like an ignoramus and think there are too many rules in life anyway. So, I looked my son square in the face and said, “I don’t really care if I am lifting weights that would make a 5 year old boy bust into peels of laughter; teach me what to do! Everyone starts somewhere!” Why am I telling you this? Well, first of all, because too many of us don’t do things we want to do or should do because we are worried about what other people think. And, secondly, I would like to share some glute exercises below. Glutes are one of the most powerful and, often, underused muscles in the body! It can take some work to activate them and I am, most certainly, a beginner with strength training. But, I hope you find these exercises helpful. Give me a year; I plan on being sculpted and knowledgeable.
Three key exercises that build glutes are squats, lunges and Romanian Deadlifts; do these without weight to start with and then slowly build the weight. I will show you these exercises at the end of this post. It can be difficult to get lethargic glute muscles to start firing. To warm them up, the following regimen is helpful, directly before doing glute work. Your body has to “learn” to use the glutes.
Single Leg Glute Bridge (not shown) – 10x each leg: same as above but using one leg at a time, the other leg extended out.
Quadruped bent-knee hip extension – 10x each leg: sit on hands and knees. Lift heel towards the ceiling.
Fire Hydrants – 10x each leg: kneel on your hands and knees, lift one leg to the side at a time, parallel with your body.
Squats: To start with, many people do not execute squats properly; they lean into their toes and forward, rather than leaning back and into their heals. This causes your body to compensate with different muscles, not firing the glutes. I would recommend practicing squats with the bar only until you get your form down. Once you’ve trained your body to lean into your heals, keep your back straight and get comfortable with that “I could fall backwards” feeling, then slowly add weight continuing that form. You can cause yourself injury if your form is incorrect or if you flex forward on your descent or ascent. Have someone check your form. Place the bar on the edge of the upper back on your traps. Feet positioned apart, a little wider than your hips, abs held in and with feet slightly turned out, so that the knees always follow the direction of the feet. Squat to parallel or just fractionally below.
Another way to do them is with a dumbbell in your hands facing forward, same position on the legs and back, Dumbbell being held by the weight end and dangling down near your waist and use the same form as above. Do 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.
Regular Lunges: Take a big step forward. Step into your heel (not leaning on your toes). regarding your other leg, the knee should be about an inch off the ground. Step back up and repeat. Do on both sides. Add Dumbbells slowly, as you get the form down. Do 3-4 sets of 24 reps, 12 on each side.
Lateral Lunges: Step to the side deep and then push back up through the heel. Make sure you’re not leaning forward but sitting down into the lunge. Do both sides. Do 3-4 sets of 24 reps total, 12 on each side. Start with no weight to get your form right and add Dumbbells slowly.
Romanian Deadlift: With weights in hand and feet apart and parallel to your hips, slide the weights down your legs and keep your back straight. Stretch and use your glutes and ham strings. Make sure you sit back and carry the weight in your hips and heels. Again, do 3-4 sets of 12-15 reps.