Stretching and mobility exercises, they’re the same thing, right? Well, not really.
You’ll often hear of the importance of stretching, but seldom will you hear of the benefits of mobilising. People get confused with the terms stretching and mobility, and can often use them for the same thing, but they are actually quite different.
Stretching aims to make your muscles longer, by lengthening them in slow movements, while mobility is more concerned with the overall factors that contribute to performing a movement properly. That is, softening hardened muscles, treating joint restriction, and loosening muscles and joints.
You’re probably thinking then, well hang on, if I want tight glutes, why would I try to loosen them with stretching.
Stretching is important, let’s all say it together now, stretching it important! Even for the glutes! You may not realise it, but tight glutes might actually be limiting not only your range of motion but also your performance. We spend so much time stretching out our quads, hamstrings, etc, that we tend to leave the glutes to their own devices.
Light stretching of the glutes has a magnitude of benefits, and it won’t ever interfere with the firmness of your muscles. In fact, it might actually help to tone them up even more.
Why Stretching Is Important For Your Glutes
Glute muscles work just like any other muscle, and therefore they can become shortened over time if they’re not used properly. Too much sitting is often the root cause of this, our sedentary lifestyles make certain of that.
Sitting weakens the glute muscles and shortens the hip flexors, which means the lower back will have to do all the work during activities that require bending. This will limit your range of motion during exercises like squats and bridges and could prevent you from completing your glute workout.
The best recommendation we can give to prevent this is to stretch, before and after your workouts.
And here are some stretches to get you started:
⦁ Seated Spinal Twist
Begin on a mat with your legs extended straight out in front of you. Bring your right knee up towards your body, and place your right heel as close to your left sit-bone as possible. Twist your torso to reach your right arm behind you, and place your palm on the floor. Using your left hand, place it on your right knee or though, and pull your knee to the left until you feel the stretch. Do not stretch too far that there is immense pain. Hold for at least thirty seconds, then release and repeat on the left side.
⦁ Pigeon Pose
While this is traditionally a yoga pose, the move can be modified for a workout stretch.
Start in a tabletop position, with your hands and calves hip-width apart. Lower your right leg down, sinking, so the outer edge is resting on the floor. Move your left leg out behind you. Make sure to keep your hips angled towards the floor as you rest your leg against the mat. Hold for at least twenty seconds, then release and repeat on the left leg.
So, that’s stretching, seems pretty straightforward, but what about mobilising?
Mobility is an important factor in performance, especially in the glutes. As mentioned before, sitting down for long periods of time can make any exercise difficult, especially lunges and squats, so performing mobilising exercises at the start of your workout is super important.
Our advice, follow the rule of three. Stretch, Mobilise, Activate!
Here are some mobility exercises to get those glutes ready to go.
⦁ Foam Rolling
The exercise does require a foam ball or cylinder, but the benefits of a good muscle roll out are too good to pass up. Rolling out your muscles is easy enough, and the size of foam balls means you can target specific muscles depending on what you need to mobilise.
Two important muscles to target and roll out for glute and hip mobility are the Psoas and the Tensor Fasciae Latae, which are located in the hips.
To roll out you Psoas, place the foam ball in your abs, just above your hips to one side of your belly button. Lie on the ground with your stomach facing down. Move the ball with your hips, to massage between your lower abs and hips.
To roll out your TFL, lie on the ground on your side, and place a small ball to the side, and slightly down from your hip bone. Move the ball around slowly, and if you find a tight spot, hold your position while lifting and lowering your leg. This motion flexes and relaxes your muscles, which will help to loosen everything up and get you ready for your workout. Keep searching for tight spots until you have loosened out them all.
⦁ The Couch Stretch
This stretch is perfect for mobilising your hips and thigh muscles, which are vital even when you’re trying to tone your glutes. It can be done at home, with your couch, or in the gym with a large block.
Stand in front of your couch, facing away from it. Rest your right knee against the back of the couch, like you would if you were performing a lunge. Bend your left leg. Keep your glutes engaged and your torso straight. Hold for thirty seconds and then switch legs.
During this exercise, the glutes of your posterior leg must be squeezed in as you move into position, and keep your abs engaged to keep your spine straight. Don’t worry if you struggle at first, it can take a while to stretch into this mobilising exercise, but once you’re there, you’ll reap the rewards.
Always be aware that mobility exercises might hurt a little it. Just be careful not to push yourself too hard, or you may cause injury. See how far you can go with each exercise and only push yourself as far as you are comfortable.
And always remember, no pain, no gain!