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Glutes and Horse riders…. You need to look at the bigger picture.

Over the past few years "Glutes" have been a buzz word that ever one is talking about, trying to activate and get bigger and stronger and play a huge element in riding. Glutes are a must have but the industry has been blind sided and had taken it all a little to far in trying to get them activated.


Glutes are a shorted name for the gluteal muscle group, we have gluteal minimus, gluteal medius and gluteal Maximus. They play a role in work together to help hip abduction, extension and external rotation.


Glutes work as a group with other and some play a more significant role in certain movement than others. But you CAN NOT choose which one you want to do a job. Muscles aren't either on or off, they work more on percentages of contract. To do hip extension you'll have glute max at the highest percentage of contraction(tone) but the other 2 glutes will still contracted but at a lower percentage of contraction. Think of a dimmer switch on a light, you can choose the intensity of it, muscles are the same the more signal the more intense the contraction. You can only get hip extension if the hamstrings are involved too. Muscles can not, and do not work on their own, they work in groups. Not only do we need the muscles that pull on the bone to make that movement, we need others to contract to stabilise us, and a key stabiliser in leg extension is the opposite side of the lower back.


Another consideration is most people either lay on the floor to do Glute strength work and this has always baffled me. The bodies job is to work against gravity and to keep us upright, this includes whilst riding, so why lay down and use gravity in the wrong direction? .... you'll be strengthening your glutes for practicing laying on the floor( not where rider want to be). We adapt most effectively to functional movement (something our brain finds useful) and need to ensure our strengthening and activations link this to function.


Riding function for the glutes is actually abduction in hip flexion which is primary glute med and min (glute max will still be working). As the hip is in a FLEXED postition we need to ensure glute can contract through a full range to the angle you need for riding. So think about these positions differences; a dressage rider working towards a long leg needs the glute to be working in less of hip flexed position than jockey or a show jumper. this needs to be adapted for each rider discipline. This show glutes need to be strengthen through a full range of motion

. Along with this riders who suffer with a pelvic tilt or a poor fitted saddle to them, will be blocking the ability for the glutes and hamstring to contract to it optimal whilst riding as the joints are in a non optimal position.


Now let's think of the joints. If a joint is blocked through the joint kinetic chain and your joint switch roles ( see article on kinetic chain) then your brain will NOT allow a strong contraction regardless of activations and strength. This is a reflex, it stop you producing force that your body can not tolerate. As the muscles job is to move a joint, if that joint cannot move or you don't know how to move it ( poor proprioception ) then your brain will not let you turn up the percentage of contraction. Inside our body we have lots of receptors that feed all this information back to the brain and if they are reporting back to the brain that. The brain is the send signals will only work as hard as required for the task, it will turn up the percentage based on minimal effort and energy it can use and if it's 'safe' to do so.


As you see can it's not as simple as just contracting and strengthening a Glute muscle.. it's a much bigger picture.


You have to get the whole body working together but this starts a a rebuilding the ability to move joints independently.



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