Men and women exercise very differently even though the biology and anatomy of muscle functions are exactly the same. Men focus on the upper body, and mostly the “show’ muscles of chest, shoulders, and biceps. Women focus on glutes, quadriceps, triceps, and anything abdominal related. The real story relates to the muscles often forgotten, hamstrings and hips. For older adults, and successful executives and professionals, sitting dominates a large portion of the day. The muscles that become weak and cause pain in other parts of the body from hours of sitting are the hamstrings and hips.
I have an amputee client who is a successful medical professional. Her left lower leg was lost in a lawn mower accident when she was a child. In her medical profession, she sits while assisting for surgeries the majority of her day. Even when not in surgery, she’s sitting a lot! As a Corrective Exercise Specialist, I can assess and work with the dysfunction in her hips and hamstrings that result from prolonged sitting and a propensity to not be as active with her prosthetic left lower leg.
After a training session in her home, she showed me an article in the magazine Amplitude, which is dedicated to helping amputees in all aspects of life. The article, “Which Muscles Are You Forgetting?”, discussed all the exercises I had her do in previous sessions to increase mobility and strength in her hamstrings and hips. It was validating and refreshing to read from a corrective standpoint, the importance of hip and hamstring mobility for amputees. Without previously researching specific movements for amputees, I used my knowledge and experience from people who sit long periods daily to correct her imbalances and dysfunction.
Mobility in the hips is key to movement in all directions. The glutes are the largest muscle of the body and responsible for producing power when you squat, lunge, jump, swing a golf club, pick up a bag of mulch, and all other movements related to bending at the knee and lowering your hips. Without proper mobility, your lower back and quadriceps take on the load. Have you thrown your lower back out? Probably because your hips lack the strength and flexibility to function properly. If you’re an avid gym goer and do deadlifts without good hip mobility (as I see most people do), your low back is a ticking timebomb to blow out.
Working from home over the past few months and sheltering in place exacerbated this already dangerous problem. Older adults begin to weaken naturally, and hips become brittle from lack of use. Balance issues are huge for older adults and anyone who sits for hours daily, which often stems also from weakness in the hips. Pain can be felt in the knees and low back, even though it originates from weakness in the glutes, hamstrings, and hip rotational muscles. One fall leads to another, and I see it in people starting in their early 40’s.
“Weak glutes can contribute to many issues such as tight hips and lower-back pain. When we sit for long periods of time or hold poor posture, these muscles disengage,” says article writer John Pope CS, CSCS, MPO, in Amplitude. Additionally, you can’t stand up straight and fully extend your hips because they are to tight. Have you seen older adults shifted over and lose height? This is a prime reason why, and it started decades ago in their 30s and 40s.
Sitting lengthens the hamstrings and glutes, tightens the quadriceps, and hinders external rotation of the hips. Focus on strengthening the hams and glutes while stretching the quadriceps. Most people stand up after long periods of sitting and stretch the hamstrings, further pulling themselves out of position. For more specific help, find a Corrective Exercise Specialist like me. We can work with you to stretch and strengthen the proper muscles for improved movement quality in all your activities. My website, mattpeale.com, has great info on the programs I offer for older adults, and executives and professionals. You only have one body, and investing in it gives you the highest ROI for everything you want to do in life.