We have all heard it from our Physio before; “Your gluts are under-active”. But what are these “gluts” and why do they seem so important?
There are actually three Gluteal muscles: Maximus, Medius and Minimus. The Gluteus Maximus (GMx) is the largest of the three and is a major stabiliser and extender of the hip. In fact the GMx is the largest and one of the strongest muscles in our body! It is vital in our overall biomechanical efficiency and deficient strength can lead to the onset of many problems such as lower back or knee pain. It provides an essential muscular link between the upper body and lower limb.
Unfortunately in our modern lives we are really disadvantaging this major muscle from functioning appropriately by sitting on it all day! In this position, minimal activity is demanded and hence over time the muscle can continue to weaken.
The GMx’s role is to extend the leg and hip. It is most active in bringing the foot under the hip during the stance phase of walking, as well as slowing the forward movement of the leg during swing phase of walking or running. In our other daily activities, such as lifting or standing up from a chair, the GMx also contracts to assist in hip extension and stability of the pelvis. If this pattern does not occur, or if there is GMx weakness, this could lead to overload of the quadriceps or back muscles and further risk of injury.
So how do we test for glut weakness? A quick way is by lying on your back with your hands on your hips. Push weight through your heels and lift your pelvis off the ground. Now lift one leg into the air. If you are unable to maintain level hips then this is a sign of GMx weakness.
If you find you have glut weakness here are a few exercises you may consider to strengthen them!
Bridge – Lie on back with knees bent and feet in line with hips. Squeeze buttock muscles and lift pelvis off ground and maintain a neutral positioned pelvis. Repeat 10 times. As you improve add in single leg lifts like the strength test.
Step Up – Place one leg on a step with other leg behind in lunge position. Place weight through heel and lift back leg through to a ninety degree position. Hold for a two seconds and then repeat 10 times.
Happy glut strengthening!