Lower Body Strength Training and Quad Dominance.
Recently, I have been reading more about how lower body strength training workouts can affect the body in different ways. Since I have been working out regularly, I have noticed improved shape and tone in both my legs and bum, as well as muscle growth. However, a close scrutiny of my legs, especially side on, reveals a lot more growth in my thighs (quadriceps) than my bum (glutes).
I have mainly been doing strength training exercises which target my legs and bum, for example:
- Squats (regular, sumo and ski)
- Lunges (regular, long and reverse)
- Hip thrusts
- Deadlifts (regular, toes inward, toes outward and wide)
Alongside pilates leg lifts and pulses, usually as part of a burn-out round.
Now, for the most part, I have been pleased to be making any, albeit slow, progress and I have been patient in the knowledge that big changes take time. However, I was slightly concerned that the day after a lower body workout, I would mostly ache in the front of my thighs (quadriceps) and hamstrings. My glutes seemed to recover much more quickly and I started to think that I may not be targeting them properly.
I started to do some research and the more I read and watched, the more I became certain that I was ‘quad dominant’ – that meaning that my quads were the ones taking over and taking the most of the strain when I was strength training. I learned that I needed to pre-activate my glutes using small, slow, isolated movements, to try to encourage my body to use the glute muscles for the main part of my workout. Without glute activation, I am much more likely to compensate with my quadriceps, lower back and other related muscles.
So, what did I do?
Well, I am a busy, working woman, who doesn’t have time to spend hours at the gym each week and I prefer the ease of real-time video workouts over annoying printouts which are difficult to read whilst working out. Therefore, I wasn’t interested in anything that involved complicated gym equipment, or hours of preparation. I essentially wanted something that I could bolt on to my existing workouts, to help me start hitting my glutes during my strength training.
I have had a basic set of resistance bands, sitting in a cupboard, for some time. I bought them initially as a more convenient travel option for working out – but had found them tricky to get to grips with for an entire workout. However, everywhere I looked, people seemed to be including them in lower body workouts, especially as a replacement for cable machines. Some resistance bands are long, hollow tubes, with ends that can be attached to legs, held onto by a handle and attached to a door anchor. I also have a set of resistance bands which are simply a loop of stretchy rubber. Both can be used effectively to activate and exercise glutes, but I have mainly been using the second set – with one medium – hard resistance band around my thighs – above the knee for squat walks and hip thrusts. I include this after a cardio warm-up and before I begin any strength training.
I picked up a set of ankle weights in Tesco, on a bit of a whim. I hadn’t heard of the brand before (Jax Jox), but I thought they would be good to add extra weight to leg lifts etc. It wasn’t until I saw this video, that I realised how good it would be to include them as part of my pre-strength training warm-up.
I strap on my ankle weights and do this routine before every lower body workout I do now. It’s also a great short routine to do when you don’t have much time, or are away from home.
Mind Muscle Connection.
Ok, bear with me on this one. I know it sounds a bit out there, but improving your mind muscle connection is important for improved results. This basically means that you need to really focus and think about the contraction of your muscles throughout training, really trying to feel the muscle working. Apparently, this improves the mind muscle connection and prevents another muscle taking over.
I have only been doing this glute activation workout for about 3 weeks, so it is early days in terms of visible results – however, I can tell you that I have definitely felt it in my bum, much more, so it seems to be doing the trick. This has been my go-to lower body routine:
- Warm-up cardio
- Glute activation with resistance band – squat walks and hip thrusts (3 sets – 12 reps)
- Glute activation with ankle weights – donkey kicks, fire hyrants, leg lifts etc.
- Lower body strength training – squats, lunges, deadlifts and bridges/hip thrusts.
- Cool down and stretch.
If like my you are a Fitness Blender fan, I just pause the video after the warm-up, do my glute activation and then continue as normal. These two videos are my favourites at the moment and I switch between them depending on what time I have available.
I try to do a lower body routine like this twice a week. I also do total body strength training once a week to include some arms/back etc and an abs workout once a week.
Summer is coming.