There are major incentives to using your buttocks properly....not just to look good in your favorite jeans. If your glutes are firing properly they can improve posture, increase pelvic floor strength, and protect your joints. We live in a very "seated" society which tends to create "dumb" asses. They just don’t know how to engage because we have not taught them to do so. Sitting for long periods of time can re-position the natural tilt of the pelvis and stretch out already weak gluteus muscles. Compare the tribal poteriors below to a typical western booty. It is easy to tell which one is going unused. I am just being cheeky and overgeneralizing a bit, but keep reading to find out if you have a dumb ass...
Test Your Ass
While walking normally, place your right hand on your right butt cheek. Ideally your gluteal muscles will be working while you are walking. If you do not feel the muscle engaging as you walk, then your buttocks is probably not firing properly. Most likely you are pulling yourself along with the front leg and putting most of the work in the quadriceps (front of the thigh). Repeat on the other side. You also may notice that one side is much better at engaging than the other. You can use the same touch test when doing a lunge.The gluteus muscle of the back leg should feel firm and engaged to the touch.
Another thing to note is the position of your pelvis. In our seated society we are often tilting the pelvic bowl backwards and losing the neutral tilt of the pelvic bowl. This not only takes the work out if our glutes, but puts strain on the pelvic floor, the lower back, and the hip joint. The illustrations below show the correct, "neutral" position of the pelvis. If the pelvis is positioned correctly, then your glutes will be properly firing.
Cultivating a Smart Ass
If you feel your ass needs some educating (many people’s do), then you can start by consciously engaging your glutes on a regular basis. When walking or running think about pushing off the back leg instead of pulling yourself along with the front leg. If you work out or practice yoga, engage the glutes of the back leg whenever you are in any lunging pose (Front/back lunge, warriors, high lunge, low lunge). When doing squats (or simply standing up from a chair) put your weight way back in your heels, don’t over tuck the tail, and imagine your sits bones are pulling away from one another. You should feel your buttocks engage!
You can also work on finding the neutral curve of your lower back. Make sure you are not super tucking your pelvis on a regular basis. If you have to sit for long periods of time at work, take breaks to stand and walk around. Try some cow/cat tilts by extending and flexing your spine. You can do this movement seated, standing, or on all fours. If you stand sideways in front of a full length mirror you will be able to observe the tilt of your own pelvis. The goal is to have a slight curve of the lower back. Try not to over tuck or over arch.
With time and patience a dumb ass can be taught! And a smart ass looks good in jeans too… so fire up that booty.