If I had a dollar for every new parent with ass cheeks tighter than my son’s grip on his electronics…
Let’s just say I’d be living on a beach with a personal barista on call.
And I don’t care about the cosmetic side. I care about the it-makes-you-wet-yourself and smashes-your-low-back angle.
Chronic butt gripping (squeezing the glutes allll the time) can lead to bladder leaks and back pain.
Chronic Butt Gripping
The glutes are deeply interconnected with the pelvic floor.
Tight glutes contribute to a tight pelvic floor which reduces it’s ability to reflexively manage normal demands.
If the pelvic floor can’t reflexively manage demands of day-to-day activities or exercise, you might experience bladder leaks, sensations of pressure and heaviness and painful sex.
Consider that the glutes are a postural muscle.
They directly impact posture through their role in positioning the pelvis.
If the glutes are chronically tight, they’ll make it hard to maintain a stacked alignment between the rib cage and pelvis.
The stack between the rib cage and pelvis is the foundation of your posture. Without it, you’ll start to see a variety of “typical” pregnancy and postpartum postures:
- exaggerated anterior tilt
- posterior tuck (loss of lumbar curve)
- swayback posture (hips pressed forward of ankles).
Perma-clenched glutes are often associated with a swayback posture that can create extra compression and loading into the low back (–> back pain).
Know what I mean?
Butt Gripping: 2 Presentations
When we talk about butt-gripping or glute-clenching, there’s 2 types.
There’s a glute clenching PATTERN that many of us fall into that leads to chronic glute clenching during our day-to-day activities.
Often this looks like a tucked pelvis or sway posture:
And then there’s over-cueing of glutes during exercise.
And the two types go hand-in-hand, of course.
5 Tips To Unclench Your Glutes While Exercising
As always, use your workouts as a laboratory to learn more about your body.
Learn how to release your glutes when you exercise, and it will be a lot easier to let em go during the rest of the day.
1) Find a stacked alignment
Bring your ribcage and pelvis into their neutral positions so they’re stacked vertically.
You should feel your weight shifted towards your heels. If you feel your weight in your forefoot, it’s a clue that your pelvis is thrusted forward.
If that’s the case, shift your pelvis back so it’s in alignment with your ankles and your ears.
The act of shifting the pelvis back will often untuck an overtucked pelvis and allow you to let the glutes relax.
Wanna walk through it with me? Check out this video:
2) Consciously release the grip
Maybe this is trite.
But do take a moment before starting the exercise to consciously release any tension in your glutes.
This will help you start the exercise with a relaxed muscle, which will make it easier to contract and generate force.
3) Restore range of motion
Incorporate exercises that specifically create length through the muscle and take the pelvis and the glutes through their full range of motion.
Consider flexion AND extension of the hip.
Consider internal AND external rotation.
Here are a few exercises that tick all of the boxes:
Resistance Banded Step Up
Lateral Step To Hip Shift
Single Leg Wall Hinge
If this feels aggressive, you can also try a Kickstand Deadlift With Crossbody Reach as an alternative.
4) Eccentrically load
It’s a fancy way of saying make your muscles work under stretch. It’s how you REINFORCE the length you find in the range of motion exercises.
Wall-supported Single Leg Deadlift With Rotation
Split Squat With Coil
5) Use appropriate tension for the task at hand.
Remember that it’s important to engage the glutes during exercise, but WHEN it’s appropriate and with the APPROPRIATE degree of tension.
Use your glutes to extend out of a deadlift or squat, but don’t squeeze as if your life depends on it.
Come to vertical, don’t hyperextend, just use what you need.
Butt gripping is a HABIT and will take some time to unlearn and replace with new patters.
Bring awareness during your workouts, and you’ll eventually build automaticity that will extend into your activities of daily living.
My mission is to make sure that having a baby is not a reason why you can’t do all the things.
Laura Jawad holds a PhD and a personal training certification (NASM). She’s a proud Certified Prenatal & Postnatal Coach and Pregnancy & Postpartum Athleticism Coach. You can check out the rest of her alphabet soup here.