“Tucking The Tailbone.” Every training day we hear our Master Trainers say this, over and over again. And… with a very important reason.
10 years ago, I ruptured my left and right hamstring during a 100 meter sprint exercise. The physiotherapist told me that I had an imbalance between the glutes and the hamstrings (that day it sounded like Chinese to me). Luckily I recovered fast, but being young and living in a daily rush, I soon stopped thinking about my posture and old/bad habits took over.
Now, 10 years later, I find myself in the teacher training course of Tirisula Yoga, trying to curl myself in padmasana, marichyasana, garbha pindasana,… As I should be thinking of breathing, gazing points and bandhas, the only thing I can think of are my tight hips and how will I ever get my feet behind my ears?
An overview of my posture: flat feet, locked knees, lordotic lumbar spine and my chin pointing forwards. This is simply asking for injuries to come. I would like to focus on the relationship between the glutes and hamstrings as I discovered by experience, and now by research, that this relationship is not always very romantic.
The glutes are likely the most explosive muscles in the lower body. Unfortunately, they also seem one of the most underused. An inactive and underused gluteus maximus means that an athlete is unable to push the hip into full extension. Lack of hip extension means poor speed during sprinting movements and/or hamstring injury, like in my case 10 years ago.
The primary job of the hamstrings is to decelerate the lower leg to control toe placement while sprinting. The hamstrings span 2 joints, so it can also assist the glutes synergistically with hip extension. This last function can become a prime action and it is then that synergistic dominance occurs. Synergistic dominance means that a primary mover isn’t performing the action that it is intended to perform, so the synergistic muscle, which is intended to assist with movement and stabilizing the joint, ends up taking over as the primary mover. When synergistic dominance occurs, tissue break down is inevitable.
With my knees in locked position, anteversion of the pelvis is inevitable and so is lumbar lordosis. Tightness of the psoas is build up and leads to an ‘altered reciprocal inhibition’ of the gluteus maximus. An altered reciprocal inhibition means that the nerves are not delivering messages well enough to the antagonist, causing the agonist to take over. In my case, the overactive psoas muscle is causing less neural patterns to reach gluteus maximus, causing dysfunction and imbalances. So, my gluteus maximus has become underused. Synergistic dominance of the hamstrings could easily start to develop.
Don’t think I have a very strong psoas muscle, on the contrary, my psoas muscle is very weak so I am one of those beginners that really have difficulties with sitting in sukhasana without moving and holding a straight back. A tight muscle is not a strong muscle.
Yoga can help to stabilize and eventually stop the synergistic dominance. First of all, “TTT”! And this in all circumstances, inside and outside the yoga studio. Stretching the psoas and strengthening gluteus maximus in backbends like urdhva mukha svanasana, ustrasana, danurasana, urdhva danurasana,…
Important is to facilitate the signal to the brains that the gluteus maximus needs to work in synergy with the hamstrings, emphasizing in the beginning on the glutes. So how to reverse the reciprocal inhibition? By inhibition and lengthening the hip flexor complex, coupled with activation of the gluteus maximus. If you perform f.e. a bridge, always think first about squeezing the glutes and then lift the pelvis. Also your brain will need to adapt so that after a while it will become an automatic movement.
This is just a superficial explanation about the relationship between the glutes and the hamstrings. If I read more and more about it, it becomes clear that also the abdominals and back muscles play their role in this story. In the end, every movement includes a lot of muscles working in synergy or in an agonist and antagonist relationship.
So, just keep it easy and let’s all together “TTT”!
200hr Weekday 2014 – Anatomy

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