Importance of the Glutes
There are three gluteus (buttocks) muscles: gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. Collectively, these muscles function as hip stabilizers, and work to keep our hips in proper position (eccentrically controlling adduction and internal rotation of the thigh). Stair climbing, standing on one leg, and running are just a few of the activities that require increased activation of the glutes.
The gluteus maximus is both the largest and strongest muscle in the body—a hip extensor and pelvic and spine stabilizer, it allows us to maintain an upright position when moving. When our thigh moves behind our trunk, during hip extension, the glute max should fire/tighten first. Without adequate strength and proper firing of the glutes, other muscles and body parts are forced to compensate, making them more prone to injury. This is often a cause of knee pain, low back pain, and why you may experience excess strain on your hamstrings, especially when running. Weak glutes also increase the risk for mal-alignment of the lower body when moving, resulting in twisting of the thigh, the knee falling in, and the foot flattening.
You should be able to squeeze and tighten your glutes in all positions. Try this: when standing, squeeze your cheeks together, and then try to squeeze one at a time. Repeat this test in sitting, and when you are lying down. You should be able to contract and relax your glutes in all positions, without too much effort. Try to become more aware of your muscle control and leg position. Once you’re able to tighten and relax your glutes, you can try to progress to the more advanced exercises below — you should be able to perform these movements under control, without pain, and with your bodyweight before adding resistance.
To help prevent and decrease the risk of low back, hip, and knee pain, please take a look at the exercises below, which target the glute max and hip muscles.
Upcoming race or event? Looking to get back into an active exercise routine? Having knee or ankle pain when you workout and run? If you have questions, or want to learn appropriate ways to mobilize and strengthen your lower body to decrease your risk for future injury, please contact us to set up an evaluation.
Mathis Physical Therapy