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Carolyn’s Workout Diary: Week 14 – Glute strength

In week 14 of her weight loss challenge, New Zealand associate editor Carolyn Enting discovers she is stronger than she thought.

Carolyn’s Workout Diary: Week 14 – Glute strength

My workouts over the past week have been a bit different. I’ve been packing, lifting and shifting boxes.

This exercise regime is called ‘moving house’ and I can report that since my weigh-in last week (which saw an 800g weight gain) I’ve lost 1kg. Those Easter eggs have been burned off!

I’ve lifted and ferried so many loads that I’ve lost count but one thing that I really noticed during the shift was my increased strength, particularly in my glutes. Actually even being aware of my glutes was significant.

I was able to carry heavier loads and move stuff I would never before have attempted, including furniture.

Learning the proper technique of how to do squats and dead lifts from GetRunning coach Gaz Brown in our weekly strength class has meant that my glutes are now not only stronger and firing, but when they’re activated the right way during bending and lifting, I’m saving my back and knees too.

The squat was the first exercise Gaz ever got me to do. This is easy I thought as I bent my knees while trying to keep my back poker straight. “No, that’s not correct,” Gaz corrected. “Your posture is all wrong, your knees are going forward and you’re not using your glutes. You’re using your knees and quads.”

He got me to imagine that there was a low chair behind me that I was about to sit on. I tried again. This time it wasn’t quite so easy. What were those muscles that were suddenly fatiguing? “Oh, those are my glutes.”

I asked Gaz why it is important to have strong glutes, particularly for running, and why squats and dead lifts help.

“The squat and dead lift are the most comprehensive full body exercises that you can do, not just for running but for any sport because they use so many muscles in the body,” Gaz said. “You have to use the whole chain of muscles from the foot through to the calf, hamstring and glutes through to the back stablising through to the shoulders, and running is such a complete exercise for the body. We always think it’s the legs but it’s not. There is a lot to do with the upper body that creates power through the legs, it creates momentum, it creates balance. It’s a big part of running. If you’ve got good strength in the upper body you can hold better posture in running and so you are getting more momentum from running. So if you can imagine squat and dead lift, where you are exercising that full synergy of muscles through the body, and running is an exercise of full synergy from head to toe, then they complement each other very well.”

Correct posture is key for squats and dead lifts, ensuring the shoulder, hip, knee and ankle point all line up. Gaz (pictured here doing a dead lift) strongly recommends getting tuition from a professional to check your posture and ensure you are doing it correctly.

“You shouldn’t attempt to do it yourself,” he said. “Once I get people’s posture right I can get their squat and dead lift correct because it all works from that posture point. The squat is like a concertina – it concertinas down, leading with the glutes, pressure and weight comes through the foot and heel.”

In the beginning I was leading too much with my knees, which is why Gaz got me to imagine sitting back onto a chair because you want the glutes to take most of the load rather than your knees.

“If you lead with the knees the knees will take the load,” said Gaz.

It also explains why I noticed a significant difference during the house move because in Gaz’s words I was “initiating from the glute a lot more” as I lifted and shifted boxes.

“If you get the technique right then you become stronger and every time you are doing a strength exercise like a squat or dead lift you are pushing yourself a bit more so you don’t feel like you are improving,” he said. “It’s not until you compare it to an activity that you used to do like lifting boxes and shifting house that you really notice that you have improved. So the little every day things become a whole lot easier.”

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