If I had a Sacagawea for everytime someone asked where they should be feeling an exercise I’d be retired on my yacht by now!
People seem to be very concerned about where they are feeling exercise and if they aren’t “feeling” it they must be doing something wrong or something is wrong with their body. It’s not surprising really, the fitness industry has really pushed this narrative. Truth be told I was guilty of it myself! But we have more information out now that gives more insight into this “feeling” theory that may completely toss that theory out the window. Let’s dive in shall we?
So first things first, let’s talk about WHY you may struggle to feel certain muscles.. Glutes are a great example of a muscle group we seem to be worried about “feeling”.
Reason 1: The exercise you are doing is not loaded or challenging enough for you to feel your glutes. If you are simply doing body weight hip bridges over and over and not “feeling” it you may need to add some weight! They are big muscles and need a good amount of load to be challenged.
Reason 2: How you set up your exercise (body position) is biased towards recruiting other muscles. Example Glute Bridges: If your feet are too far away from your butt your hamstrings are going to work more to stabilize. So it’s more of a hamstring strengthener. It’s not wrong, it’s just not working your glutes as much if that is your goal. Bring your feet under knees to focus more on glutes. Another example is a lunge. If you are more upright with torso you will be working the quads more. If you lean the torso forward slightly it will require more glute strength.
Reason 3: You may have a proprioception deficiency (lack body awareness in an area). This is not something to stress about! It can happen for a number of reasons. Hypermobility, injury, exercise history (we tend to “feel” the areas we work more often).
Ways to improve this:
- Foam rolling: This can stimulate the nervous system which can help your brain better connect with that area. (Not sure how to foam roll? Check out my Foam Rolling Series HERE)
- Try isolation exercises before performing more complex exercises like squats or deadlifts or even running.
This is why Pilates can be a great compliment to other forms of exercise because it is a more mindful form of movement. It can allow you opportunities to connect with certain muscles in the body that you struggled to find.
So bottom line is that just because you aren’t “feeling” a muscle does NOT mean it isn’t working. Your body is amazing at figuring out what it needs to do in order to execute a task. The big thing is that you keep moving! And if you really want to hone in on a muscle group you can work with a Pilates Specialist like myself to help you!