The Vital Glutes

Two women doing the bird dog exercise

Clients of mine are often surprised when they come to me with a knee injury and I spend a significant portion of the session assessing their hips. The reason for this is the importance I place on the glutes. These incredibly strong muscles are not only the powerhouse behind compound movements and general athleticism but are also vital for stability and control at the knee, pelvis and back.

What do your glues do?

Anatomical picture of the gluteus maximus
Gluteus Maximus – Biggest and strongest muscle in the body

The gluteus maximus is the largest, strongest muscle in the body. Working alongside it’s counterparts the gluteus medius and minimus, this muscle group provides a host of vital functions.

  • Produce powerful movements of of hip extension, adduction, abduction and rotation
  • Provide stability throughout the back, torso, pelvis and legs
  • Control rotational forces through the knees

The stability that the glutes provide is extremely important for sportspeople as it prevents excess stress on joints such as the knee and those in the lower back, and takes stress off other, less powerful muscles.

What is wrong with our glutes?

Lego man sitting at desk with pained look on his face
Too many of us sit too much!

Unfortunately given our modern lifestyles that often involve lots of sitting and other sedentary behaviour, it is common to find that even in keen athletes the glutes are weak or inactive due to lack of use.

Issues that can occur with weak or inactive glutes can include:

  • Over-reliance on the hamstrings, leading to hamstring strains
  • Low back pain due to poor stabilisation of the pelvis and stress transferred to the muscles of the lower back
  • Knee injury caused by excess rotation or impact forces due to lack of control from the glutes
  • Hip pain due to lack of control of the femur in the hip socket
  • Lower body misalignment leading to further injury of the legs, knees, ankles or feet

What can we do about it?

Working to strengthen and activate the glutes will not just lead to increased resistance to injury but also to generate more power in just about every movement in any sport, leading to improved performance.

There are countless exercises to hit the glutes, but here are some of my favourites.

Glute Bridges

Reverse Lunges (bodyweight/kettlebell/dumbell/barbell)

And don’t forget to maintain mobility in those hip flexors. If the hip cannot extend fully then the glutes cannot contract fully!

Hip Flexor Stretch

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