Notice I didn’t say weak. I hate the word weak. The word itself carries many negative emotions and connotations of what weakness means. Words matter in the pain and performance game. Choose wisely how you speak to people.
Tell a person in pain they are weak and they feel weak. News flash! People in pain already feel weak and vulnerable. Tell an athlete they are weak and they immediately get defensive and want to go harder, faster, stronger and longer. That’s the complete opposite direction from where they probably need to be going. Regress to progress. Going harder on inhibited muscles just makes them even more inhibited! #beastmode has the opposite effect of its intended use.
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The body doesn’t grant what you ask, but how you ask it. It’s not about going harder, but going smarter.
Potential strength is always there, but the brain won’t give it to you if it feels vulnerable. The brain is always asking itself, ‘Is giving you more strength right now a good a idea?’ If the answer is no you ain’t getting it no matter how much you want it. So it inhibits muscular power and activation to protect itself.
What does inhibited mean? Think of it as down regulation. The neural input to a muscle is lowered (backed off). The muscle still works but it’s not as efficient. Therefore it appears weak!! The body craves balance so it finds another muscle in the movement pattern to do more. The other muscle now becomes up regulated or facilitated (jacked up).
The body throws some warning signs at you when it’s not happy. Especially when it’s not happy your ass is inhibited. Nobody likes a sleeping ass. GLUTE AMNESIA. It forgets what to do and when to do it. The problem is we don’t always see the signs or listen to the warnings. Or we don’t even know there are warnings related to inhibited glutes. That’s about to change. I jokingly say, ‘if you’re standing in front of me asking help, you have a glute problem. We just have to see how bad.’
What’s the role of the glutes: Hell, just about everything! They are the powerhouse of the body. Force production central.
Extend the hip
Laterally rotate the hip
Abduct the hip
Adduct the hip
Posterior tilt the pelvis
Hips are designed for thrusting
Safe to say the hips depend on the glutes. And last time I checked, if you want to walk you sorta need your hips.
Now onto the signs in no particular order:
Decreased hip mobility. Hips don’t stop moving unless they are trying to make you stable. If the glutes are inhibited you aren’t stable. The hips lock to give it to ya. Freeing up the hips won’t do jack squat unless you activate the glutes and teach the body what to do with the new range of motion.
Your lower back hurts. Low backs don’t hurt for no reason. They don’t get bored and decide to hurt you. When you lose hip mobility you take more movement from the lower back. Lose movement in one place and you move more in another. The back hurts because it’s over working. The best thing to help your lower back is to activate your glutes.
Knee pain. Inhibited glutes lead to poor control of the femur. Remember how much they do for hip movement? The knee takes a beating. The knee only does what the foot will allow and the hip can control. Don’t forget that traumatic knee injuries will inhibit the glutes. So activate them as part of knee rehab.
Locked ankles or chronic ankle sprains. Poor hip control leads to vulnerability in proprioception and gait. Ankles lock to restrict full hip extension. Glutes extend the hip. If they suck your brain won’t allow full extension. One way to restrict hip extension is to lock down the ankle. Problem solved. The brain wins.
Plantar fasciitis. Any problem in the feet check your glutes. Stand up and try this. Take off your shoes. Flatten your feet (Pronate) and tell me how your lower back and glutes feel? Yuck. Pretty sucky I bet. Now invert your foot (supinate) put an arch in it and tell me what you feel happen in your glutes. KABAM! They fire. Inhibited glutes go hand in hand with flat feet.
Shoulder decreased motion or pain. The glutes connect via fascia across the body to the opposite shoulder via the Posterior Oblique Sling. When glutes are inhibited the fascia becomes tight and shoulder range of motion is restricted. If you can’t generate force from the ground up and across the body to the shoulder when you throw, you overuse the arm to generate power. The shoulder does the role of the ass. And it then hurts. Don’t get me started on what happens to the shoulder when your latissimus dorsi is inhibited. Hint: It usually is 🙂
Tight psoas muscles. The psoas is a functional opposite of the glutes. The psoas flexes the hip and glutes extend it. The psoas anterior tilts your pelvis and the glutes posterior tilt it. If the glutes are inhibited the lower back becomes more unstable and the psoas kicks into hyperdrive to stabilize the lower back. That’s its primary job. So for a tight psoas the glutes are always a player.
Groin or hamstring pulls. The hamstrings take over the primary work of the glutes to extend the hip. That extra work causes strain. The groin overworks to adduct the hip because the glutes are inhibited. The most common groin muscles to pull and get injured are (pectineus, adductor longus/brevis). They act as hip flexors, antagonist to the glutes. They are hip adductors, synergistic to the glutes. When the glutei are on vacation the groin muscles have no checks and balances.
Lateral epicondylitis. Pain in the elbow relates to inhibition of the opposite side glute. So if the right elbow hurts assess the left glute for inhibition. Why? See the explanation for the shoulder problem. Same sling. Posterior oblique system. That includes the glutes, latissimus dorsi and thoracolumbar fascia. I have found this system to be involved with every elbow problem. But wait, my glute doesn’t hurt. Exactly. Now you’re catching on. Pain only tells you there is a problem it does not tell you what it is. Or you could just keep treating the elbow over and over hoping it finally sticks. Yeah that will work great 🙂
Poor performance and durability. Inhibited glutei means you cannot generate force efficiently. Less efficiency means you have to use more effort to accomplish a movement task. More effort equals more energy use in a faster period of time. More energy use leads to faster depletion of durability and stamina. Basically you hit the wall. Face first.
Say what doc?! Now you lost me. Now I know you’re crazy. Well that’s true regardless. But I love the crazy shit path. Especially when the same old shit path doesn’t work anymore, if it ever did. Let me tell ya why. When the glutes become inhibited you can lose fascial tensioning around the hip driving force needed for forward propulsion.
Superficial Back Line
The loss of elastic energy recoil in the fascia along the superficial back line leads to compensation overuse in the neck extensors. That overuse increases muscular tension in the back of the head. You get a tension headache. So get your head out of your ass (sorry I had to) and activate your glutes after releasing your neck.
What’s the one big takeaway from this article? Inhibited glutei cause chaos in the body.
Activate them and watch everything get better. Because after all, ‘Strong glutes make everything better.’