This week I am excited to bring you a discussion on the importance of having strong gluteal muscles. Whilst many of us have been quite active during isolation, others have become more sedentary. This can cause weakness and muscle imbalances that may lead to injury.
So before we head back to the gym when they reopen shortly, I thought I would have a discussion with you about the core and give you some basic exercises on how to strengthen them at home. I spoke to Chiropractor Anna Kennedy from Macedon Chiropractic who put together this exert for you.
Your ‘glutes’ or your ‘gluteal muscles’ refer to the muscles in your bum. They comprise of three major muscles: Gluteus Maximus (the large main one that shapes your backside), Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus (the two smaller muscles that assist your Gluteus Maximus in moving your body) Together the glutes work with your other core muscles to support your spine and maintain your posture. In our practice we often see clients with injuries, imbalances or pain due to weak and inactive gluteal muscles.
Why is glute activation important?
The strength of your glute muscles can have a major impact on the overall strength of your body, they support your core, help to support a range of exercises and compound movements, as well as help avoid muscle imbalances which can lead to decreased muscle mobility. Being able to activate your glutes properly is important so that you can strengthen them. Activated and stronger glutes lead to; better posture, improved athletic performance and a reduced chance of injury
What causes weak glutes?
One of the main reasons for weak glutes is the amount sitting we are doing during our day. Whether it is in the car, on the train, at your desk, or on the couch, sitting causes your glute muscles to become more dormant than they should be. Sitting also causes your hip flexors and hamstrings to be in the shortened positions, resulting in tightening of these muscles and alteration of the position of the pelvis, hips and lumbar spine. As posture is altered, the glute muscles find themselves even less relied upon due to improper body mechanics during activity. Weak glutes can also be as a result of injuries or surgery’s to the hip, knee or back that prevent you from being able to perform activities that work these muscles, for example being in a back brace or on crutches for a length of time.
What injuries can arise from weak glutes?
Weak glutes alter the position and stabilisation of the pelvis. They lead to hip abduction (the thigh bone moving inwards) and internal rotation as well as forward tilting of your pelvis. This can the lead to an increased load on the knee and can contribute to conditions such as patellofermoral joint pain (hip and knee pain), Iliotibial band Syndrome (tight hips/side of thigh) and medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints/shin pain), achilles tendonitis. So injuries to your lower back, knee, hip, ankle or foot can often be as a result of weak glutes especially if you are spending a lot of your day sitting and then performing running or other exercises without activating your glutes.
What is the relationship with the glutes, hamstrings and ITB: how imbalances cause the ITB to have tension and then knee pain
Your glutes, hamstrings and iliotibial band (ITB) all work together to help to stabilise and hold both the hip and knee in position. Weak glutes, alter the position of the pelvis and hip and cause the knee to shift inwards and the leg to internally rotate. As a result of this change in position, the hamstrings and ITB tighten to try to stabilise the knee. When you then go to perform exercises such as squatting or running with weak glutes, the load on the knee is imbalanced and increased leading to pain in the knee. The patella can also be misaligned which results in poor tracking and pain.
What are the best exercises for strengthening the glutes?
Just as you warm up the rest of your body for a workout, it is important to activate your glute muscles prior to exercise. Some simple exercises that you can be done as part of your warm up include Clams, Crab walks, Donkey kicks and Glute bridges. These exercises can be optimised by using a resistance band, but if you don’ have one, your body weight will still be effective.
1. If you have a resistance band: loop it around your lower thighs. Lay on your right side with your right arm extended and your head related on your arm. Bend both knees and draw them forward slightly to bring your feet in line with your glutes.
3. Exhale. Keeping your feet together activate your right glute to elevate your right knee towards the ceiling, and ensure your top hip doesn’t roll forward.
4. Inhale. Lower your right knee to return to the starting position
5. Complete 10 repetitions on one side before completing 10 on the other side
1. With a resistance band looped around your lower thighs, plant both feet on the floor hip-width apart, ensuring that your knees remain in line with your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor. Ensure that your back remains between a 45-90 degree angle to your hips
3. Exhale. While maintaining a squat position and keeping your right foot on the floor, step your left foot outwards so that your feet are slightly further than shoulder width apart.
4. Inhale. While maintaining a squat position and keeping your left foot on the floor, step you right foot inwards to return to starting position
5. Complete 10 repetitions on the same side before completing the remaining repetitions on the other side
1. With a resistance band looped around your upper thighs, start on all fours on a yoga mat. Ensure that your knees are below your hips and your hands are below your shoulders. Set your spine in a neutral position and draw your shoulder blades down and back.
3. Exhale. Keeping your knee bent, release and elevate your right leg until your thigh is in line with your spine, ensuring that your foot remains flexed.
4. Inhale. Lower your right leg to return to the starting position, but without resting your knee on the mat.
5. Complete 10 repetitions on the same side, before repeating the remaining repetitions on the other
1. With a resistance band looped around your lower thighs, lie flat on your back on a yoga mat. Bend your knees and position your feet firmly on the mat, ensuring that they are hip-width apart and your spine is in a neutral position. Allow your arms to rest by your sides on the mat. This is your starting position.
3. Exhale. Press your heels into the mat, activate your glutes and raise your
neutral pelvis off the floor until your body forms one straight line from chin to knee, resting on your shoulders.
4. Inhale. Lower your pelvis, thinking one vertebrae at a time to return to the starting position.
5. Repeat for 15 repetitions.
Performing these exercises regularly before your workout can ensure that your glutes are switched on and ready to go. Foam rolling is also great post workout to help recover any tight muscles.
I hope you found this article as informative as I did! I have had a lot of lower back issues and when I do Pilates sessions with a glute focus, it makes a huge difference to my strength.
Going forward, the Innate Wellness Program will be rolled out monthly, rather than weekly. We hope we have been able to keep you moving through isolation as well as keeping you informed about your health and fitness. As you integrate back into society and a normal routine, we hope you do so with renewed vigour and can take on board some things you have learned through this program.
I have added some Pilates videos to stick with the theme of todays blog. I hope you enjoy the sessions. 😊
Until next time, Kel
Workout 1: Pilates
Workout 2: Back and sides
More about Kelly Nicholas
Kelly Nicholas holds a Health Science Degree in Paramedicine and currently works as a Paramedic for Ambulance Victoria. Kelly is also a qualified personal trainer with a Bachelor Degree in Exercise Science and has completed a specialisation in nutrition for exercise professionals. Kelly and her business partner Louise Moss, run Change it up Training - a small business specialising in training and motivating others to be the best/healthiest version of themselves.