Runners and their Buttocks – Physio Exercises

Does your sport involve running?  Then you need to read this to understand the importance of having strong gluteal or buttocks muscles.

The three gluteal muscles in the buttocks the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus are crucial for strength and power in athletic movement and also key to the stability control of your trunk.

The problem is we rather take these muscles for granted. We fail to appreciate the different roles for which we need to condition and balance the musculature.

Our failure to do so frequently leads to a wide range of injuries in athletes – including many of the most common ailments: patellofemoral pain, anterior cruciate ligament injuries, iliotibial band syndrome, ankle injuries, iliotibial band friction syndrome and Achilles tendinopathy to name a few.  This weakness can also lead to a loading of the spine due to the lack of pelvic control. 

The more load that is applied such as during running activities the more strength and endurance that is required.  Therefore, you need to strengthen the gluteals, especially the inner layer.  This work is very specific and cannot be done with gym exercises alone.  Furthermore, once these deep muscles become weak the outer muscles will take over and they may never correctly turn back on and function the way they are meant to.  These muscle adaptations allow us to continue to function but will cause an overloading of the “prime movers” rather than using the “stabilisers” as intented.  This overloading will lead to tightness and pain.

Strength per se is not enough for peak, injury-free athletic performance. What’s often required in strength in specific positions and movements as well as endurance.  The recruitment of the muscle is the important part.

So while athletes may have good gluteal strength when performing an exercise such as the squat or leg press, they may be unable to use their inner gluteus to stabilise the hip and  pelvis effectively in an extended position with the pelvis held in neutral.

This position – which is referred to as the ‘inner range’ –is crucial for athletes involved in running sports, because the gluteals support the upright position of the trunk, and help maintain the pelvis and lumbar spine in neutral.

If an athlete cannot maintain an upright trunk or has a lordotic position (pelvis tilted down at the front) while running, this is in effect the same as flexing the hip.  A lack of inner-range strength in the gluteals can place greater strain on the lower back, or affect the biomechanics of the lower limbs, increasing the risk of injury.

As these exercises are so specific it is important to get a biomechanical assessment to see if they are functioning correctly and what exercises may be required.

By Melanie Roberts.

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