Mitch Zaplatosch is a graduate student here at Iowa State studying Diet and Exercise. He is the graduate assistant for the fitness program at Recreation Services. He has been personal training for 4 years and is ACE certified in personal training. Mitch has worked with 15 clients and currently trains with 2 every week. Mitch also teaches group fitness classes where he is the instructor for Bootcamp on Tuesdays and Thursdays in the Beyer Hall functional training room. In previous semesters, he taught core strength, TRX, kettlebell, functional strength and aqua.
For this week’s Trainer Favorites, we are focusing on the glutes and hips. Keeping strong and healthy glutes and hips are critical for long-term lower body strength, important for things such as walking up and down stairs as you age, but also for improving your performance for jogging, cycling, sprinting, sports performance, or really any activity that requires moving from point A to B.
Hip Flexor Stretch
In college, we tend to sit quite a bit. Whether that’s during class, studying at home, or eating, research shows college students tend to be quite sedentary. Over time, this can cause our hips to become quite tight due to this prolonged seated posture.
To start this movement, go down into a lunge position with your knee on the ground. Push your body forward so that your forward knee is right over your foot. From here you will squeeze your glutes and rotate your hips anteriorly. Bringing the bottom of your pelvis towards your front foot to finish the movement off. Hold this for 15 to 30 seconds, you should feel at the top of the leg that is directly below you. If you want to add an extra challenge you can bring the opposite arm up towards your head as seen pictured.
“This stretch can help loosen up hips that tight from long days sitting in class.” – Mitch
This is a great way to warm-up your glutes, hips, and abductors for a lower body workout but can even be a workout in and of itself! Start with your feet shoulder width apart like you would to perform a squat, with the band just beneath your knees. From there, take a half squatting position and take a few steps to the side, being sure to pause with each step. You should feel some resistance in through your hips, glutes, and abductors (the muscles on the outside of your legs). You can get a similar effect by standing on a resistance band and stepping side to side, focusing on keeping the tension through the sides of your legs.
“Take your time with these and focus on the muscles you want to warm up. These are more challenging than they look, so start out with a thinner band at first and progress to thicker bands as time goes on.” – Mitch
While the traditional deadlift targets more your hamstrings and lower back, this variation of the deadlift targets more your glutes, hips, and quadriceps. Start with your feet slightly wider than a conventional deadlift, shins nearly touching the bar. The exact distance of your feet will be up to your comfort, but it should be a distance where you can appropriately drive your hips forward as you pick up the barbell, keeping your torso straight (as compared to the conventional deadlift). It’s perfectly fine to play around with different distances of your feet until you find what feels appropriate for your body and allows you to transfer force well.
From there, bend your knees slightly as you bring your hands down to the bar. You can take whatever grip feels comfortable for you. Two common variations are using a conventional grip with both hands around the bar in the same direction (pronated) or an alternate/mixed grip (one hand is pronated, while the other is supinated). If you do choose to use an alternate grip, it is essential you keep your arms relaxed throughout the movement. This is NOT an arm exercise. Your arms are merely there to hold the load and should stay extended throughout while your glutes, quads, hips, and upper back do all the heavy lifting.
Engage your back muscles (your lats) as you grip the bar tightly and use your glutes to drive your hips forward, extending your knees and standing straight up. Do not attempt to “squat” the bar. The bar should move in a straight line upwards, as your knees naturally move out of the way as you extend them. Keep your neck in a neutral, relaxed position.
“Start out slow with low weight until the movement feels comfortable. This is a complicated move that will take a lot of practice. It is also a movement that can be dangerous if done wrong, so that’s why it’s essential to take things slow and focus on using your glutes and hips for the movement rather than pulling through your lower back. However, it is also a wonderful lower body movement which gives you a huge bang for your buck in terms of muscle activation and strength development, making it my personal favorite exercise.” – Mitch
Focusing on the hips and glutes will make your workout routine more rounded and make your body more balanced. The hip flexor stretch is one that could be completed every day to stretch out those hip flexors. These other two can be incorporated into your workout and they may become mainstays there. Now that you have three new hip and glute exercises go out there and give them a try!
A huge shout out to Mitch who helped write this blog. Tune in next time to see the next trainer and their favorite exercises!