Working the Glutes in 3D

Working the Glutes in 3DA common limiting factor in program design for both rehabilitation and performance programs is working on isolated movement patterns.  Initially there is often a need to focus on working hip extension or shoulder external rotation, for example, but once strength has improved and the movement pattern is improving, you really need to start thinking in 3D.  I talked about this concept in a past Inner Circle webinar on how we need to look at alignment in three dimensions, but this also is important for muscle function.

Using the glutes as an example, we all know that the glutes do more than extend your hips.  I’m not just talking about the gluteus medius and minimis, but also the gluteus maximus.  If you look anatomically at the glute max, you can see the fiber orientation is ideal to provide hip extension, external rotation, and abduction.  That is the glute max’s function in 3D.  Once you groove your correct movement patterns, progress to exercises that incorporate two dimensions and then finally all three dimensions at once.  Photo from Wikipedia.

Gluteus maximus

Here is a great example.  In this video, we are doing a single leg RDL.  The RDL alone works on hip extension.  By making it a single leg exercise, your body wants to drop at your hip, thus making you abduct.  Finally, to add the third dimension of external rotation, I have the person using a TRX Rip Trainer, which is essentially providing a unidirectional pull into internal rotation, and thus firing his hip external rotators:

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This a big part of my upcoming program on Functional Stability Training of the Lower Body.  Next time you hit a movement plateau, take a step back and make sure you are working the muscle in 3D.


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11 Responses to “Working the Glutes in 3D”

  1. Great stuff Mike! I have used this model for progression and regression when developing my Halo content for integration. I like what you are doing. Keep up the great work.

  2. What are your thoughts on a S/L RDL holding a DB/KB in the opposite arm? I know it’s not exactly the same as this exercise, but wouldn’t it stress similar reactions as this? I know IR won’t be stressed as greatly, but it does allow for more loading and greater glute extension and abduction. Any thoughts?

  3. Hello from Spain, great blog around the world!

    What about this progression to warm up (glute max activation)

    1. Glute Bridge (1D)
    2. Bowler Squat (2D)
    3. Hip Airplane (3D)


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