Often, you’ll walk in to MPC and the members are performing a variation of a glute activation exercise (banded walks, clamshells, lying down leg circles, etc). Most gyms in the industry understand the value of why strengthening the glutes is so important, but very few of their members have ever asked why they need to put on those uncomfortable mini bands (especially if you have hairy legs), only to find out moments later your glutes are on fire.
While most people are aware of the gluteus maximus, many do not realize the work done by the surrounding muscles which facilitate the hips. Today we will focus on the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. The glute medius and minimus are partly overlapped by the glute max. They connect from the ilium to the femur, abduct the thigh, and rotate medially. When you see someone and their knees are buckled in, that could be a structural problem but it could also be a weakness in the glutes. Having internally rotated knees can lead to a host of problems, one being the very common issue of an ACL tear. In fact, some people attribute this ACL tear epidemic to having weak glutes, especially when performing unilateral exercises.
One study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27428378) suggests that hips with strength deficits can lead to patellofemoral pain (PFP). The conclusion of this study suggests that increased strengthening of the hips, specifically abductor strengthening, can lead to beneficial results and decreased pain for people with PFP. Furthermore, knocked knees (valgus knee) can lead to cartilage damage and ACL tears. The valgus knee plus continual impact may not cause your ACL to tear or your cartilage to be rubbed down, but it can lead to problems in the future that your knees won’t appreciate.
Another study (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27526636) examines 26 elite male soccer players to determine if those who perform glute medius activation before performance can lead to a decrease in potential for hamstring injury. The evidence finds that lumbo-pelvic muscles may be important to consider in hamstring injury prevention and management. By taking the load off your hamstring and displacing it to other parts of the body this will decrease the chances for injury. Allowing your body to have strength in the proper positions at the time can lead to a decrease in injury and an increase in performance.
Either for injury prevention or striving for optimal performance, glute strengthening is essential. It should be included in your warm-up, both as activation and strengthening. Here are some examples of glute work we do here at MPC:
1. Feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent
2. Take one lateral step while keeping good posture, then return to standing position number 1
Banded Hip Bridge
1. Back flat on the ground with your knees at a 90 degree angle
2. Elevate your hips while pushing knees out with heels pressing into the ground
Banded Clam Shells
1. Lying on your side with knees together at 90 degrees
2. Keeping feet together separate knees, turn toes up, then return to position number 1
Author: Sam Doucette