Active Seniors

Training the right muscles in the wrong way

It is very obvious that the way to make a muscle stronger is through exercise. But while it is easy to find an exercise that targets a particular muscle, it is harder to choose the appropriate exercise for a specific goal.
Let’s consider strengthening the glute muscles to improve balance while walking. Unfortunately, with more time sitting our glute muscles, which should be the strongest muscle in the body, can easily become lazy. Our glute muscles have a few different actions based on their anatomy. They assist in extending our hips as we more from a seated to a standing position.

However when it comes to walking, they have a different role. The glute muscles are hardest at work when we first place our foot on the ground to control the sway of the hips as we change pressure from one foot to the other. This is the most beneficial action to train if we want to improve our balance. The problem is that when people look into different glute strengthening exercise options, the most common options are exercises such as squats, bridges and lying leg raises. While these are all good exercises to train the glute muscles, they are not specific enough to the goal.
A better choice would be to perform a curtsy step lower, or even a simple standing Y balance reach exercise. In both of these exercises, the glute muscles are hard at work controlling the sideways movement of the hips and the position of the lower leg. This mimics and exaggerates the balance demands on the glute muscles as we walk.

With all exercise, it is important to consider the purpose of the exercise. If your goal is more generalized and involves staying healthy and active, then exercises that use movements in all directions targeting all of the major muscles will be sufficient. However if you have a specific activity that you struggle with, it is important to choose the exercises that relate specifically to the demands of that activity.

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