- Posted by Christine
- On 27th February 2018
- 0 Comments
- running, squats
Want to Run Better? You Need to Train Your Gluteus Medius
When people think of their glutes, it’s the gluteus maximus – the largest muscle in the body – that gets most the attention, with many popular exercise programmes packed with squats and bridges aimed at increasing glute strength and size.
But while the gluteus maximus is unbeatable in the power it generates, it’s the medius that keeps your hips and and lower limbs stable and properly aligned, which is essential for improving or maintaining peak running performance.
So no matter how strong your gluteus maximus muscles are, without the gluteus medius keeping your hips in check, you can end up with wonky biomechanics and increased injury risk.
Why so many of us have unbalanced hips
General muscles move or hold a position in either flexion (bending) or extension (straightening). If a muscle is flexed for too long it can become tight and short, and if it’s extended for too long, it can become stretched and weak.
If you sit all day for months or years of your life, your hip flexors will be flexed for far longer than they should be. Sitting also applies direct pressure to your gluteus medius, preventing it from moving and leading to weakness
Over time, this imbalance of lax, weak glutes and tight hip flexors can change your pelvis alignment when you stand, walk and run.
If your gluteus medius muscle isn’t strong enough this could lead to your knees coming inwards/ together (known as adduction) which leads to an uneven distribution of load, which reduces your peak performance and could increase your risk of injury when you run.
As the hips affect the alignment of all structures above and below them, hip weakness can contribute to everything from sprained knees and ankles to a sore back or shoulders. Having weak glutes can affect your health far more than you might expect.
Sometimes, your gluteus medius muscles aren’t weak, they’re just imbalanced or not activating in the right way. This can be caused by a variety of actions that favour one of your legs more than the other, such as always prioritising a certain leg when you stand or crossing the same leg when you sit.
These small imbalances can very gradually lead to one side of your glutes being significantly stronger or tighter than the other.
The best exercise for your gluteus medius requires no weights or machines
One of my favourite exercises to both diagnose and improve gluteus medius strength is the single leg squat.
Performing a single leg squat in front of a mirror gives us a reliable indication of how strong or weak your gluteus medius muscles are and how balanced your hips remain under load. If your knee drifts inwards as you perform the repetition, or if you can’t perform a single leg squat at all, this is a strong indication that your gluteus medius muscles need to be conditioned.
When it’s time to train your gluteus medius, we continue to use the single leg squat. This simple body weight exercise has been demonstrated to activate the gluteus medius to 64% of its maximum voluntary isometric contraction (the standard measure for muscle strength), making it the highest of any exercise.
To perform a single leg squat, stand on one leg with your other leg off the ground. Slowly bend your knee, lower your buttocks to the ground while keeping your back straight, then raise back up again.
Always perform a single leg squat in front of a mirror so that you can monitor and correct your form, with a focus on keeping your knee in line with your foot throughout the repetition.
If you can’t complete a single leg squat without maintaining form (or at all), you can start with some support from your hands to ease yourself into the exercise until you can complete your repetitions unassisted.
Could your gluteus medius be to blame for your running problems? Come and see us
While incorporating single leg squats into your exercise routine can provide fantastic improvements, self-diagnosis and management can only go so far if you want the best results.
For a thorough diagnosis of the strength and impact of your gluteus medius muscles and an exercise programme individually tailored to your body and goals, book an appointment now by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 020 7497 8974.