Gluteus maximus, bum, butt, arse, behind, back end or caboose. Whatever you call it doesn’t matter, the important thing is how we can maximise the potential of our derriere when we are out turning the pedals on our beloved steed. The glutes tend to be a neglected area while all the focus and glory is on the quads and calves. The only focus the glutes area gets is that of punch lines for fart and bum jokes. All jokes aside they are an underrated but highly important part of the human anatomy and when developed correctly can provide great benefits for our cycling. Whether you have the tree trunk legs of a sprinter or lower limbs like Wiggo you stand to benefit from a little focus on the back side.
The glutes is a muscle group made of many different muscles with the gluteus maximus being the largest of this group—and the largest muscle in the human body. As the group contains many large muscles it has the potential to produce enormous amounts of power if developed, trained and given the proper attention it deserves. There are significant benefits for cyclists who spend time developing their posterior; even beyond the extra attention from the opposite sex!
The glutes are the primary muscles responsible for hip extension (leg straightening, the push down phase of our pedal stroke). So by strengthening the muscles responsible for this action by default your pedal stroke will become stronger. This will in turn allow you to push a harder gear in time or your current gear will become easier. The other big benefit for having a stronger backside is the increase to your hip stability. This may not seem like such an important issue for the younger readers out there yet, but for those of you who may be getting a little longer in the tooth this becomes an increasingly important issue. We have all seen nanna and pop shuffling along with a walking frame or stick. They are probably suffering from any number of aliments but their hip stability, you can bet your house, will be very poor. This leads to even the simplest of tasks becoming increasingly difficult, such as walking and getting in and out of your favourite armchair after watching ‘Days of Our Lives’. Now for our younger readers this picture seems a million years away but if action isn’t taken while you are young, that shuffling nanna or pop could easily become you.
So what can we do to avoid the walking frame and instead become a cycling monster that tears the legs off others in the peloton and eats them for breakfast? Well you can take some time to complete the exercises I am about to prescribe a couple of times a week for three sets of 15 reps mixed with your normal riding. If after reading the prescribed exercises below and are still not completely sure about how to complete the exercises safely please have a chat to one of the instructor at your local gym for some help, as the last thing I would want is for you to get injured and have to spend time off the bike. No one wants that.
Squats – Standard
The standard feet shoulder width squat is the best starting point when it comes to strengthening the glutes. To begin with do these with no weight until you are confident that you have the technique correct. Place your feet a touch wider than your shoulders and your toes slightly turned out. Imagine you are about to sit down in your favourite lounge chair, with the first movement being a bend at the hip and basically sticking your bum out. Make sure that as you go lower that your knees NEVER go in front of your toes. Try and go till your quads are parallel with ground or as far as you feel comfortable. Then rise up making sure that the weight is being pushed through your heels. A good way to practice is to have a chair behind you and lower yourself down until your bum just touches the chair then rise up. When you believe you have mastered the required technique of the squat we can start to add some extra weight. This can be done in a couple of different ways.
1) You can hold a dumbbell or kettle bell in each hand whilst performing the squatting motion.
2) You can perform the squat with a barbell placed on your shoulders. This is the more difficult of the two and you need to be mindful of the placement of the barbell so that it does not sit on your neck vertebrae because as you increase the weight on the bar; you can very seriously injure your neck. Sit the bar on the fleshy part of the shoulders just below the base of the neck. You will know when the bar is in the right place as it will ‘lock in’ place.
Squats – Sumo
Place your feet so they are about a metre apart and turn them out so they are at about a 45 degree angle. As with the standard squat, imagine yourself sitting down on a chair with the first movement once again coming from your hips as you stick your bum out. Now unlike the standard squat your knees will not be able to go past your toes but what you do need to be mindful of is that your knees don’t collapse inward. Once again continue the motion till your quads are parallel with the ground or as far as you feel comfortable. When you have this technique down you can begin to add the weight. You can either use a barbell (as discussed in the standard squat) or in this instance a single dumbbell or single kettle bell. When it comes to the dumbbell or kettle bell (which ever you prefer) hold it with both hands so it is hanging in front of you and could be swung between your legs if wanted to.
Start in the standard squat position, feet a touch wider than your shoulders and feet ever so slightly turned out. Take a stride forward (around a metre) with one leg. Now bending your front knee till your quads are parallel with the ground allowing your rear heel to lift of the ground and come up onto your toes. Rise up with all the force going through the heel of your front foot and step back to your beginning position. The rear foot does not provide any assistance in the upward phase. Its primary role is to keep you balanced and to stop you falling over. Repeat on the other leg.
A couple of things to watch out for are that your knee does not go past your toes on your front foot. If this is becoming an issue take a slightly longer stride out. The other is to keep an eye on your front knee to make sure that it isn’t wobbling all over the place and for the most part is staying straight though the range of motion of the lunge. This is a more technically demanding exercise than the squats so please spend some extra time mastering the technique before you add any weight. When it comes time to adding weight, refer to the standard squats as you add weight in the same manner.
Everyone wants to be a stronger rider whether for racing purposes or so you can be the first one of your friends to the coffee shop for post ride java. Regardless of your reasons behind wanting to get stronger, the exercises described above will help you achieve a more muscular behind. Then there is the prevention of hip flexor instability. No one wants to do the Zimmer frame shuffle and having stronger glutes will help prevent this from happening. The only frames we want to be buying are exotic, custom made carbon or titanium, designed to take 700c wheels and cope with our new-found astonishing power output. So the next time your partner asks “Does my bum look big in these knicks?” you can answer with a confident smile and say “Honey it is OK to have some junk in your trunk!”