Running Focus #1 The Glutes
This is the first in a series of blogs I'm going to be writing about specific muscle groups that are essential in running, I'll be talking about what the muscles do, why they're so important, typical injury problems and most importantly how to strengthen them.
This week it's all about the glutes, the root cause of so many injuries and for a lot of runners one of the weakest links in the chain.
The posterior chain is a group of muscles located in the rear of the body and arguably the most important of these muscles for runners are the glutes, these are made up of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.
The gluteus maximus is the largest and heaviest muscle in the body and it's size allows it to generate huge amounts of force and power.
It is the primary driver within the posterior chain and is responsible for initiating hip extension, it also plays a major role in controlling flexion in the trunk and hips.
The gluteus medius is the second largest muscle in the glutes and is a fan shaped muscle almost entirely covered by the gluteus maximus.
It plays a vital role in hip stabilisation during running and weakness here can lead to the femur dropping inwards and placing stress upon the knee and ankle and ultimately forcing large levels of stress on the inside of the knee and the plantar fascia.
The smallest of the 3 glute muscles and it is buried deep to the gluteus medius muscle.
It plays an important role in the abduction of the hip, it stabilises the pelvis during single limb support and stops the pelvic dropping on the opposite swing side.
Weakness here can be felt as pain in the lateral hip and also along a similar pathway of sciatic pain all the way to the ankle.
Modern life is rubbish...
Sadly modern life plays a major role in the problems that so many people have with their glutes and the number 1 culprit here is sitting down!
Increasingly we sit down for longer and longer periods of time and lockdown seems to have increased this for a lot of people. If large time periods are spent sitting the glute muscles begin to weaken, this can lead to a tightening in the hip flexors and them even adopting a shortened position and in turn this affects the pelvis, hips and lumbar spine. As overall posture becomes weaker, the glutes are relied upon less and improper body mechanics becomes more commonplace.
So, what do we need to do about this?
The first step is to get up more! Stop sitting for so long, set a timer to remind you to get up and walk around, go and make a cup of coffee, take the dog for a quick walk or just get up and move at regular intervals.
The next step and the thing that will make the biggest single improvement for runners is to start strengthening those glutes, the aim here is for buns of steel! Below is a very simple programme to incorporate into your training, there's no point in me saying to do it every day or even 3 times a week as I know you all just want to go out and run! So instead what I am suggesting is following this programme just once a week. Each exercise is either 10 x 10 second holds or 10-15 reps on each leg and in total it should take no more than 5 minutes of your time.
Click the video link and follow the instructions, once you start to see and feel the benefits then gradually increase the reps or add in a second or even third day each week where you run through all 4 exercises.
4 essential glute exercises
Bent knee plank
To sum it all up...
So many injuries I see are caused by muscle imbalances and weakness and these can be avoided by just working on those weaker areas in advance.
Any form of strength and conditioning will only help to make you a better and stronger runner in the long term so find the time to fit it in. Okay, it may not be as much fun as just going out for a run but just setting aside 5 minutes once a week will make a difference and everyone can find a spare 5 minutes!
Simon @ EQuilibrium