Do you constantly have reoccurring lower body injuries? Do you suffer from intermittent lower back soreness? Are you a little slower off the mark? If you answer yes to these questions then it’s time to see if your gluteals are activating and working efficiently.
Due to our lifestyle the glutes are almost always asleep, we spend more time sitting on them and not enough time working on them. Glutes are very rarely activated during lifting or everyday activities, this is because the compensation pattern to get around using the glutes are so engraved. With poor gluteal function, performance can be impaired and injury potential increased.
Glutes are known as stabilising muscles of the hip but also work at controlling the knee and the inhibition of gluteus maximus is also related to lower back pain. Weak or delayed activation of the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius is a major contributor to injuries and overuse injuries such as hamstring strains, lower back pain, anterior knee pain, anterior hip pain. In addition, it contributes to lower body malalignment by allowing internal rotation of the femur which increases the chances of ACL sprains, ankle instability and ITB problems. We have to remember that the glutes are a local stabiliser, global stabiliser and for athletes a global mobiliser.
So how can we activate the glute muscles, help improve performance and reduce the incidence of injury. As a performance coach it is my job to keep the athlete playing their sport and reduce time in rehabilitation. In every session that the athlete does, we complete a very basic glute activation exercise to make sure the glutes are firing and ready for the session. This is a banded bent knee glute bridge.
Ok so you want to hit the glutes hard in a session but what exercises will work? (Remember not many people let alone athletes can activate and engage their glutes. Let’s break down the glutes and look at them individually. Gluteus maximus activation (exercise/ level of activation) –exercises include sideways lunge (41%), lateral step up (41%), transverse lunge (49%), unilateral mini squat (57%), retro step up (59%), wall sit (59%), single leg squat (59%), single leg deadlift (59%) and forward step up (74%). Gluteus medius activation – exercises include; lateral step up (41%), forward step up (44%), unilateral bridge (47%), transverse lunge (48%), wall squat (52%), side lying hip abduction (57%), pelvic drop (57%), single leg deadlift (58%), Single leg squat (64%) and side bridge to neutral spine position (74%) (Reiman, M., Bolgla, L., & Loudon, J., 2012)
Remember that these are just the exercises that this study look at there are many more exercises that can be completed to help activate the glute muscles. Remember when performing or programing exercises to target and strengthen the glutes use uni lateral exercises that require single leg balance, hip extension or eccentric control. Remember the glutes are our powerhouse they can be the largest and most powerful muscles in the body and we should be using them to their potential.