Maybe you've been typing away for hours, having the most productive day of your life. Or perhaps you're on the couch, several hours deep into your favorite reality show. Whether pampered or productive, your butt is likely to take a snooze after a long period of sitting.
Intentional or not, butt clenches may be your go-to exercise to either wake your booty up or strengthen the glutes. But unfortunately, this popular move probably isn't doing much for either. Instead try a few other stretches an exercises to get your blood flowing and muscles growing.
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Does the Butt Clench Exercise Really Do Anything?
The butt clench is a pretty self-explanatory movement. You squeeze the glutes, hold for a few moments and release. While this move may get a lot of publicity and can be done pretty much in any position, they're not a very effective glute exercise, says Jereme Schumacher, physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in San Diego.
If you're sitting at a desk or on the couch for a few hours, chances are, your butt and legs may fall asleep. This happens when nerves or arteries are pressed for long periods of time either at the lower back or buttocks, Schumacher says. But it's not likely that butt clenches will solve this, either.
"Based on how you could get numbness or tingling in your legs, butt clenches would not be a very good solution to alleviate or prevent this sensation," he says. So, what really happens when you do butt clenches in your seat? Probably nothing.
That doesn't mean you have to stop doing them, though. "Although it may not be the most effective glute workout, I do not feel there is any harm in doing them," Schumacher says. "Especially if you are just standing around and want to do them throughout the day." Just don't expect significant glute gains.
Alternatives to Butt Clenches to Do While Sitting
Considering butt clenches aren't the most effective exercise to counteract sitting all day, you may want to ditch them altogether. Instead, Schumacher recommends you opt for these exercises you can do without leaving your seat:
1. Seated Thoracic Rotation
- Come to the edge of your seat.
- Keeping your back as flat as possible, raise your right arm and reach down to your right foot.
- Raise your left arm up toward the ceiling and rotate your torso to open up toward the left, keeping the lower body facing forward.
- Pause here for a few deep breaths (or as long as needed).
- Switch to the opposite side.
"These twists will help promote greater spinal motion, which can help to alleviate nerve tension when sitting," Schumacher says.
2. Seated Hamstring Stretch
- Come to the edge of your chair, back flat and arms at your sides.
- Extend your left leg straight in front of you, heel on the ground.
- With both hands, reach for your toes, keeping a slight bend in your left knee.
- Pause here for a few deep breaths, then repeat on the opposite side.
3. Seated Figure Four Stretch
- Scoot to the edge of your chair and sit with your back flat and arms at your sides.
- Cross your left ankle over your right knee, keeping the right leg bent at 90 degrees.
- Grasp your left ankle with the left hand and hold the edge of the chair with your right hand.
- Press into your right heel to keep your body in place and bend your torso forward toward your left knee.
- Lean as far as you can while maintaining a flat back.
- Pause here for several deep breaths and switch sides.
If you've been sitting for a long time, you'll definitely want to prioritize this stretch. "[The seated figure four stretch] will help decrease muscle tension in your buttocks and alleviate excessive tension during prolonged sitting," Schumacher says.
4. Chair Squats
- Sit at the edge of your seat with your legs at about shoulder-width apart.
- Cross your arms in front of you, hands on opposite shoulders.
- Press into your heels and come to standing.
- Then, reverse the motion, sending your hips back toward the chair.
- Lightly tap the chair with your glutes and come back to standing.
- Repeat for 8 to 10 reps.