Glute activation and hip extension are two of the biggest missing components to most individual's program. This isn’t necessarily their fault, but it has a lot to do with our daily lifestyles that are predominately filled with quad dominant movements and very few hip dominant movements. This is a concern because your glutes and hips have a lot to do with the health of your lumbar spine and how susceptible you are to injury. In addition one of the biggest imbalances and postural adaptations I see in clients is anterior pelvic tilting which is commonly marked by excessive hyperlordosis in the lumbar spine and a pot-belly looking abdomen. This imbalance is also commonly found in conjunction with hip flexor tightness To correct these imbalances produced by our daily lifestyles we must implement proper corrective exercises that will increase hip mobility which the lack of is a huge factor causing these imbalances. But the addition of tight hip flexors make it extremely difficult in certain cases to extend the hips and train the glute and hamstring in proper fashion. Now your probably already saying to yourself “well that is an easy fix, just increase hip flexor mobility by stretching.” While you are correct in this assumption we must also take into consideration that if we are focusing on increasing hip flexor mobility we are not focusing on overall hip mobility especially extension and proper training of the glutes and hamstrings. This is why I believe with a few simple modifications to a particular exercise we can properly train the hips to extend and train the glutes and hamstrings while all the while stay focused on increasing our hip flexor mobility.
The exercise we are going to modify to allow us to properly train hip extension and glute activation is the Supine Bridge. The normal execution of this exercise involves laying face-up with heels pulled rather close to your butt. Then simply cue yourself to drive through your heels, activating the glutes and driving your hips upwards toward the ceiling in the top portion of the exercise you should form a bridge downward bridge from your knees to your shoulders. As demonstrated in the following video. But in this position someone with tight hip flexors will find it very difficult to extend the hips due to the restrictions placed by the hip flexors limited range of motion. So to increase hip extension and the overall effect of the exercise we will simply add a few modifications to to the execution. Simply move your feet closer together and separate your hips a tad more. In this position your hips are placed into more external rotation and abduction. Perform one rep in this position and compare it with the original execution procedure and you will note a increased ability to extend the hips.
You may be wondering why this change in hip position so drastically affects your ability to perform extension with your hips well the answer actually lies in the action and position of the iliopsoas muscles group. This group of muscles is responsible for hip flexion as well as external rotation of the hips. That is something that most do not talk about enough. But in addition to the function of the iliopsoas group if one could actually view this group as it lies in the body you would note it does not lie directly in the sagittal plane which is the plane the supine bridge exercise normally trains in, but is really kind of abducted. So in order to increase hip extension and contraction of the glutes we must put you in a position that shortens this group of muscles the most which requires slight external rotation and slight abduction of the hips.
Next time you get a chance try out this excellent modification to help you work around your hip flexors. Below is a sample of the standard supine bridge.