How your butt can relate to your level of humanism


Our buttock muscles, also known as gluteal muscles or glutes, are critical in enabling humans to maintain upright posture and walk on two feet. Your glutes also have a role in stimulating the cortical (thinking part) of your brain. When these muscles are not firing correctly, you have a greater risk of low back pain, hip bursitis, knee tracking issues and general de-conditioning and degeneration.

A quick look through evolution

Glutes primate and humanFrom an anthropological perspective, humans have evolved to have larger and stronger gluteal muscles, compared to closest DNA relative, the ape.

If you look at a primate you will notice the quadriceps (front thigh muscles) and hamstrings (back thigh muscles) are large and well developed. The primate has a somewhat smaller buttock when compared to these very large leg muscles. This is because apes spend most of their time on four legs.

Evolving to walk with a bi-pedal gait (walk on two legs) provided humans with distinct advantages. We could move with greater ease on the ground, manipulate objects in our hands with greater dexterity and view the horizon easily to avoid threats or seek out opportunities. Most importantly, your ability to stand upright is directly related to the cortical (thinking part) of your brain.

A bigger butt means a bigger brain

OK, before you aspire to the Kim Kardashian derriere, let me explain further.

Extensors muscles, like the glutes, enable us to be upright. These muscles have a neurological connection to the cortical (thinking part) of the brain. It is their function, rather than pure size, that stimulates brain activity.

The problem

Unfortunately, we are a society that spends more time sitting, than we do moving.

Inactivity leads to de-conditioning. This has created a culture of gluteal weakness and all the problems that go along with this condition.

Are your glutes strong?

A Step Down Test (see video) is a useful way to see how your glutes are functioning. This should only be attempted if you have good single leg balance. Note that difficulty standing on one leg may already indicate you have gluteal weakness.

Here’s how you perform the test:

  • Stand on one leg at the edge of a 10-15cm step, facing to the lower surface
  • Slowly lower one straight leg so your heel gently touches the lower surface – like placing it lightly on egg shells
  • Then slowly raise up again

If your glutes are strong you should be able to perform this easily, with control and absolutely no tilting of the pelvis and hips.

The solution

When your glutes are weak, you may be over-active in your low back paraspinal muscles (those each side of the spine) as they compensate to hold you upright. We see this often in practice when people have a ‘tight back’. The over-activity of the paraspinals increases pressure on the discs and spine and often leads to low back pain and other problems.

The ideal exercises to bring strength and balance back to the glutes is resistance exercises out of gravity. You want to be stimulating your glutes to their maximum, without activating the paraspinals. This does not necessarily occur with lunges or squats and in some cases these exercises may aggravate the problem.

Need a check up

Maybe it’s the right time to be checking in to see if you have gluteal weakness? Call or email our practice today to arrange an appointment.