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Clamshells my ass!

There’s an article in the September Issue (Vogue baby!) called “The Bottom Line” that is all about, well, bottoms. Apparently, the “trifecta of hindquarterly perfection” of Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian and Jennifer Lopez are inspiring women the world over to want a bigger, rounder tushes.

Canadian spine bio-mechanist Stuart McGill is consulted and along with clamshells and bridges, he advises to squeeze the glutes at red lights for example:
“You have to remember, whenever possible, to squeeze robustly,” McGill says. So lately, whether I’m going upstairs, counting sheep, rising from chairs, or watching Veep, “Contract the glutes!” is my rallying cry…”¹

Ugh. It’s the Kegel all over. You may remember the bruhaha over the Kegel when Katy Bowman suggested pelvic floor contractions done in large amounts does not always equal a strong, functional pelvic floor. Well, you can train tension or you can train strength and they are not the same thing. I should mention in fairness that McGill is trying to “wake up” a muscle that is gone offline, “gluteal anmesia” as he calls it. So in this case, creating an awareness of an area that is seldom called upon in our sedentary existence might be warranted–for a time. However, don’t go overboard and squeeze ALL THE TIME or you’ll end up with the same problems that continually sucking in the belly or “kegeling” the pelvic floor does. Taken out of context, that advice could cause more harm than good.

The interesting thing to me is that this article works. I found myself checking out my derriere’s profile in the reflection of my office door* while reading it. I ran my hands over it critically a few times. Hmm, is my butt big enough? How big is big enough? I found myself wanting to do a few squats. I guess every ass does want to hear himself (or herself) bray.

Here’s an excerpt from Bowman’s “Move Your DNA”:

“So we don’t have big butts. Which isn’t to say that we can’t go into a gym and carefully isolate these muscles by mindfully watching our form and working muscles to keep our tension from pulling our pelvis out of alignment so that we can carefully body-build and develop one. But the natural frequency and amount that the posterior leg muscles should be working would not occur. If you figure your butt muscles should be working with each step–and you should be taking enough steps to cover three to five miles per day–you can see how it is not likely that the three sets of a hundred reps of whatever exercises you are doing for your hip area match the natural loads necessary for the lumbopelvic area to function optimally, to function biologically.”

She goes on to say that if you have tension down the front of your leg (hip flexors), isolating and developing glutes can result in two muscle groups “experiencing abnormally high loads” on both sides of the hips. Now if your objective is to fill out your pants a la Beyoncé or Kim Kardashian (like the author of the Vogue article), you might not care. If your objective is performance (McGill works with elite performance athletes) you might be looking for short term gain, so that’s your prerogative. I think it’s important to know why you are doing what you’re doing.

I train people for the long term, the goal in my practice for clients and myself is optimizing the health of joints (hips included) for the long haul. It’s all about balance. So working muscles to hold the pelvis in place while I isolate and build a butt is not on the menu. You can get a bigger rounder butt in weeks, with some will power and a knowledgeable trainer, and if that’s your goal – go for it. But(t) you can also get a bigger rounder butt in time with appropriate amounts of hip extension while walking and some easy lifestyle changes like squatting to bathroom and sitting less for example. Think of it like the “slow food movement.” You will end up with the appropriate end – one that is just the right size for your anthropormetric dimensions,  plus you’ll enjoy the side effects of a healthier pelvic floor, low back, knees and hips.

There are many fabulous successful trainers mentioned in the Vogue article and all of them will deliver for the right price. I’m here to tell you your bum is out there somewhere, waiting for you. And it’s free. You have to cover a lot of ground to find it. But in the process you’ll gain whole body/mind health, and your bum will be with you for life, no gym membership required.

Don’t believe me? Pictures speak louder than words, so herewith is a picture of a certain 55 year old blogger’s butt, who practices Restorative Exercise, squats to bathroom and doesn’t use chairs, doesn’t sit all day long and tries to walk as much as possible. No injections, no implants, no kettlebells were a part of this picture. Just whole body, natural movement.

With a tip of the hat to Keith Haring and E.B.White.

¹”The Bottom Line” by Marcia DeSanctis, Vogue, September 2015

*my office is actually my back porch



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