It’s All in the Hips (and Pelvis) Part 2: Strengthening the “Glutes”

As part of an ongoing discussion of the article entitled “It’s All in the Hips” that appeared in the April issue of Running Times I want to discuss the importance of the “glutes” and how to go about strengthening them and making sure they are activated. Many of the injuries that runners develop are due to weak or improperly activated “glute” muscles. This article will cover strengthening of the” glutes”, while the next article will cover making sure the “glutes” are being properly activated.

What are the “glutes” and where are they located?

• Gluteus medius and minimus : Attached to outer surface of the ilium (the uppermost and largest of the three hip bones) and the femur

• Gluteus maximus: Attached to outer surface of the ilium and posterior side of sacrum and coccyx and the femur

What is the function of the “glutes”, including during running?

• Provide power to our stride to propel us forward as our hip extends

• Provide balance and stability when one foot is on the ground, which keeps our body aligned in the three planes of motion (sagittal (front-to-back), frontal (side-to-side), and transverse), without this the forces of running can lead to injury

What happens if the “glutes” are weak in runners?

• Adversely affects posture

• Can cause other muscles to compensate like the tensor fascia latae (TFL), which can lead to IT Band Syndrome

• Can lead to overpronation, which can cause plantar fasciitis

• Can contribute to the development of patellar tendinopathy and patellofemoral syndrome

• Can contribute to the development of medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints)

How do we strengthen the “glutes”?

• Exercises primarily for gluteus maximus:

– Stability Ball Glute Bridges : http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/exercise-library-details/0/66/

– Body weight squat: http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/GluteusMaximus/BWSquat.html

– Single leg stand (note: hold for 30-60 seconds or until fatigue): http://www.acefitness.org/acefit/exercise-library-details/0/112/ – Step-up (can be done just with body weight): http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/GluteusMaximus/DBStepUp.html

– Standing lunge I recommend different angles to target different portions of the glute muscles (straight in front, to the side, 45 degree angle in front, 45 degree angle behind): http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/GluteusMaximus/BWLunge.html

– Walking lunge (can be done just with body weight or dumbbells): http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/GluteusMaximus/BBWalkingLunge.html

– Split squat: http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/GluteusMaximus/BWSplitSquat.html

– Single leg squat: http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/GluteusMaximus/BWSingleLegSquat.html

• Recommendations for these exercises:

– Frequency: 2-3 times per week

– Number of sets: 1-3

– Number of repetitions: 8-15 or for 30-60 seconds depending on the exercise

– Resistance: Some of these exercises will be challenging enough with just your body weight, however if they are too easy then you can challenge your muscles by adding appropriate resistance so that you can perform the prescribed number of repetitions with good form

– Progression: Over time as the exercises become easier, I would progress from the easier to the more challenging exercises. The order of progression from easiest to most challenging is: body weight squats (double leg) → step-ups → lunges → split squats → single-leg squats

– Perform 1 or 2 of these exercises

– I would recommend also incorporating glute bridges and single leg stands

• Exercises primarily for gluteus medius:

– Clam shell

– Side lying single leg raises in three positions (foot in neutral position, toes pointed up, toes pointed down)

– For both of these exercises see the first half of eight week progression part 1 video: http://www.coachjayjohnson.com/2011/11/eight-week-general-strength-progression/

• Recommendations for these exercises:

– Frequency: 2-3 times per week

– Number of sets: 1-3

– Number of repetitions: 5-15

– Resistance: Some of these exercises will be challenging enough with just your body weight, however if they are too easy then you can challenge your muscles by adding appropriate resistance, such as using a resistance band, so that you can perform the prescribed number of repetitions with good form

• Other exercises to strengthen the gluteus maximus and medius:

– Body weight squat with hip abduction – perform a regular body weight squat, at the top of the squat abduct on leg (raise it up and out), alternating legs

– Single leg body weight deadlifts (note: this exercise may be too challenging for some runners and triathletes to perform properly): http://www.exrx.net/WeightExercises/GluteusMaximus/BWSingleLegStiffLegDeadlift.html

Please contact me with any questions or comments.

See you on the road or trail,

Brian

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