In the second installment of Training for Life, we're going to take a closer look at another exercise that can attract a lot of crooked stares and sideways glances. At least I assume it's the exercise. It could also be that the people near me can hear Taylor Dayne blasting from my headphones.
Exercise: Lateral stepping with band
Why you should be doing it: Because I said so. Like you need more of a reason than that. And also because this is an excellent glute activation drill. Why do you even need to fire your glutes? Because they're lazy. Fire them.
I kid. Honestly though, your glutes, or Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, and Gluteus Minimus comprise one of the largest muscle groups in the body and certainly in your posterior chain (back of your body). Strengthening this group of muscles can help improve your golf swing (Dad), your bocci ball game, and even your 5k time.
For most people though, it's not about out-driving the other dudes in your golf group (Dad), it's about avoiding injury and staying healthy in your workouts and day-to-day activities. So when your glutes have trouble firing, your body compensates, putting more stress on the lower back, hips and knees.
This drill also helps develop stability in both the knees and the hips, and when performed correctly, this should really make your butt burn. Fire. Fire in the glutes.
Who it's for: Everyone. Seriously. I have everyone from 19 year old athletes to 74 year olds doing this. For athletes it's about developing more power and strength in the posterior chain to perform better. For everyone else, it's about avoiding injury.
What you need: A smaller band, similar to the ones in the picture. Most gyms have these type of bands hanging around somewhere, but you can also pick them up from Perform Better (not an affiliate link). If you prefer the thinner style of green and red bands in the photo, you can pick them up from Rogue (also not an affiliate link).
Key coaching cues: Place the band just above the knees. Bend the knees slightly to get into a good athletic stance. Exhale fully to put your spine into a neutral position. Maintain tension on the band throughout the movement. To get the most out of this exercise, initiate the step by driving off of your rear leg; meaning don't think of reaching with the lead leg below. So if you're moving to your left, start by driving your heel into the floor and pushing off. It sounds subtle, and it is, but you can feel the difference between initiating the movement with the rear leg and reaching with the lead leg. Again, it's important to maintain tension in the band throughout the movement. Don't allow your knees to cave inward.
If you find that putting the band around your knees is too easy, you can move to the second variation I have in the video, with the band around the ankles. The same coaching cues apply. The third variation is to put the band around your forefeet. Using the band around your forefeet is the most difficult of the three variations, and with good reason. A 2012 study out of the University of Waterloo showed that placing the band around the forefeet activates more muscles than using the band around the knees. Essentially, the band placement around your feet activated the gluteus maxiumus gluteus medius, and the TFL (tensor fascia latae).
Who I stole this from: Pretty much everyone in the strength and conditioning world, but the particular variations below came from Bret Contreras, whose known in the fitness circles as the glute guy.