Glute Manifesto (part 3) – Hacking Callipygia


Definition: having well shaped buttocks

Synonyms: Bootylicious, bumtastic, callipygious, rumpalicious

(Props to Mitchell Wilson of for expanding my vocabulary)

The Quick Hack

If you’ve seen your physio, or done some self-diagnosis, and found that your glutes aren’t working, it can be a slow process to move back to full function. But it doesn’t have to be. There is various hands-on therapeutic interventions which can be used to improve function but theres one hack I’ll use time and again to regain function within 20 minutes and thats EMS.

Electronic Muscle Stimulation

EMS is awesome. Applying an electric current across the muscle to force contraction, combine this forced contraction with a voluntary contraction and you can quickly reinforce the bodies ability to fully contract this most important muscle group. I’ve seen muscles go from non-functioning to immensely strong in just one session, relieving people of long-standing hamstring pain in days. This really works.

EMS Units

Some people will be aware of the ab-belts, “gain 6 pack abs while you watch tv”, these are EMS units. Tens units are a similar device that people will be aware of but operate at lower powers and different frequencies, this means they operate more on the nervous system and can be difficult to ramp up enough to create a full tetanic contraction. For years I had a relatively cheap Neuro-trac sports device which worked great, but again, the cheaper the device, generally the less power, and I managed to max out this the power on this device pretty quickly, but it was only recently when I decided I could afford the upgrade.

Compex is Hoover, Coke and Pritt-stick

My mini saviour
My mini saviour

Compex are the daddies of the EMS. Since getting this device I’ve loved it, such a high level of quality but also so much scope on the programmes. I bought the Compex Performance model with additional MiSport sensor. Strap that bad boy to your butt and ramp it up and your glutes won’t stop firing for over a week. This is my hack.

EMS usage

Charlie Francis was a fan of the EMS (unfortunately, amongst other less legal modalities) but actually planned its use into the training year, working the major muscle groups of the legs year round to get that extra edge on top of voluntary contractions within the gym. The advantage of this modality being that it bypasses the nervous system so can be used additionally without affecting overall nervous system load.

For a sprint coach he seemed to be able to avoid hamstring injuries pretty well, and along with other parts of the program, one of the reasons for this, in my opinion, would be fully functioning gluteals, due in part to year round EMS treatments. I personally use my EMS year round because of a history with lower back problems and hamstring issues, and at the moment it seems to be doing a job.

EMS has many uses, the Compex unit that I owe can be used to target muscles for relaxation, or for maximum contract, increasing rate of force development, or for promoting capilliarisation amongst many other things. Now I’m not saying it necessarily does all these things, but I fully intend to cover its various uses in another blog. Its one of those tools which can be very useful for an athlete because its relatively safe and easy to use at home, but then theres so much scope for its use when you really get into it. My top tip for the week is that if you’re an athlete, ask for an EMS unit for Christmas, you won’t regret it.

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