The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Gluteal Muscles Myth - Shaking The Dog's Paw

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The post Spotting Back Pain During Running and Walking - What Do Abs Have To Do With It? showed the common and painful bad posture of standing with too much inward curve in the lower back, called swayback and hyperlordosis. A reader mailed me an article about gluteal muscles and asked what gluteal muscles have to do with it.

The article shows one kind of hyperlordosis, with the hip pushed forward. The drawing at right shows that hip-forward hyperlordosis position (right figure) compared to neutral spine (left figure). The article stated that the hip-forward posture was due to weak gluteal muscles, and that strengthening the muscles would fix the bad posture. The article gave a strengthening exercise of lying on your back and squeezing the "cheeks" of the backside together as if squeezing a coin between them.

Knowing muscle action will help you know why it doesn't work that way:

  1. Your gluteal muscles are muscles of your backside. One function is to pull your upper leg backward, for example, when walking, to pull each leg behind you. The distance between the back of your hip and the back of your upper leg shortens.
  2. If you use your gluteal muscles while standing (not tighten them, just use them to bring about movement) your hip will push forward. That is the opposite of correcting a hip that is forward in bad posture.
  3. Squeezing the "cheeks" of the gluteal muscles together is training a different movement direction than either pushing your hip and leg forward or back.
  4. Another fallacy is that tight gluteal muscles pull the hip so that it pushes forward into bad posture. It is true that tight hip muscles in front will change the tilt of your hip. People with anterior tightness cannot easily bring the leg behind them, which hurts stance and gait. Gluteal muscles cannot get that tight unless you have tetanus. Gluteal tight enough to push the hip forward a few inches would be so tight that you would not be able to sit down. You would tear your backside like splitting your pants.


The key point is that strengthening a muscle does not make it move your body or change your position. If you strengthen your arm, for example, your arm does not automatically wave around or raise over your head. Your arm only moves when you make it move. Strengthening your gluteal muscles will not move your hip for you. Even if strengthening did make any body part move on its own, gluteal muscles would cause a forward hip, not correct it.

Think of asking a dog to shake hands with you. If you want the dog to move his paw up to shake your hand, you do not strengthen his leg and paw. You train the movement and the voluntary desire to bring about the action.

Standing, walking, and running in hyperlordosis is a major cause of lower back pain. Some people stick the backside out in back and others tilt the upper body back with the hip thrust forward. Both increase the inward curve of the lower back and painfully pinch the lower back structures. Although some fitness information and advertisements represent overarching as attractive, even something to deliberately do, it is an unhealthy and weak posture, making it unattractive and undesirable.

Strengthening muscles is good and helpful and fun and healthy, and so on. Strengthening gluteal muscles or any other muscles will not automatically make you stand in healthful position. Stronger muscles do not make you move. You can change to healthful position right now without strengthening. These posts show how:


When you hear that you need various strengthening exercises to correct posture, think of shaking a dog's paw.


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Drawings of Backman!™ © copyright Dr. Jolie Bookspan from the book The Ab Revolution™ No More Crunches No More Back Pain
Dog's paw photo by Wolfie!
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About the Author


M.Ed, PhD, FAWM

Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.

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