Next up in my “Exercises You Should Be Doing” series is a Resistance Band Exercise for Glutes: the Band Resisted Lateral Walk. While a lateral walk may not sound like much of an exercise, once you throw a mini resistance band into the equation you’ll see – or should I say feel – why this move is a must in your fitness routine.
Why focus on the Glutes?
The primary muscle group we want to focus on in this exercise is the glutes. Your glutes are an incredibly important muscle group. Beyond helping you look good in a pair of jeans, your glutes play an important role in overall function and movement, as well as injury prevention.
When we assess new clients, one thing we look for is muscle groups that aren’t “firing” or properly doing their job. The glutes are easily the number one muscle group we see that fall into that category. And when it comes to inactive glutes, we’re not just talking sedentary people … we’ll also see it in very fit individuals and even high level athletes.
So what exactly causes the glutes to shut down and not do their job? A couple of factors usually come into play:
First, is the most obvious reason – lifestyle. Underactive glutes or “glute amnesia” is often a byproduct of inactivity and too much sitting. The old term “use it or lose it” certainly applies here when it comes your glutes. If you’re sitting a good majority of your day, then you’re simply not using your glutes and will most-likely suffer some type of “glute amnesia.”
The second common cause of the glutes shutting down and becoming inactive is injury. Injuries can often change the mechanics of how the body moves which leads to compensation – some muscle groups becoming overactive, while some become underactive. Compensation issues can go on for quite a while without people really even knowing what’s happening. Often times, knee pain and low back pain can be traced to the glutes simply not being strong enough and not doing their job.
So how do we deal with the above when it comes to an underactive or inactive muscle group? Muscle activation…or in the case of today’s topic, glute activation.
Glute activation is simply the process of waking up the glutes by doing some specific movements designed to make the glutes having to do the work without being able to compensate.
A great way to work your Glutes
Today I’m going to focus on my favorite glute-activation exercise – the Band Resisted Lateral Walk.
Before you get started, you’ll want to have access to some mini bands. Mini-bands have become a popular training tool both in the rehab and general fitness and sports performance areas. They’re inexpensive and offer a wide variety of movement options. Most fitness equipment providers offer some type of mini bands, with Resistance Band Training, Perform Better, and Power Systems being among the more popular choices. You may want to consider a couple of different resistance levels. The thicker the band, the more resistance it will provide. For most people first starting out on the Lateral Walks, a light to medium resistance is plenty.
How to do Band Resisted Lateral Walks
Place the band around both legs. While you can place the band in different positions, I prefer higher up the leg (just above the knees as pictured). This will make the move a bit easier and help prevent the body from rocking or compensating as you move against the resistance. If you place it around your ankles, or even your feet, the move will be more difficult and can sometimes take away from trying to isolate specifically on the glutes. As you master the move and gain strength, feel free to experiment with moving the band down the leg.
Pull the band so your feet are about hip-width to shoulder-width apart. Toes on both feet should be pointing forward and your feet should be parallel. Step laterally with one foot and then step in with the other foot.
Always keep tension on the band when you are stepping and don’t let the feet come together. You’ll also want to focus on keeping the feet about hip-width to shoulder-width apart. Every time you step try to step as far apart as possible to really work the glutes. Do not drag the back foot when you step back in. Also try not to rock as you move laterally. If you find that your body leans to one side as you step, the resistance may be too much.
You can keep the legs fairly straight as you step, but I prefer to keep a slight bend (1/2 squat) in the legs. Again, experiment a bit and find what works best for you.
When first starting out, shoot for about 10-12 steps to your right before doing the same going to your left. Rest for about 15 seconds and repeat for another 2-3 sets. Increase the number of steps as you get stronger.
A few tips on doing Band Resisted Lateral Walks
- Pay attention to where you feel this movement most. You should feel it where your back pockets would be if you were wearing a pair of jeans.
- Take it slow … there’s no need to rush this movement.
- Breathe! Many people tend to hold their breath as they focus on the move. Breathing will help master the movement and get oxygen to those working muscles.
- Perform activation exercises like this prior to your regular workout or as an active rest between sets.
- These also are great to do before any type of leg training, such as squats, lunges and deadlifts.
About the writer: Ken Grall is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and owns and operates an Edge Fitness in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Ken.