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The importance of the Gluteus Medius in running

The Gluteus Medius is one of three Gluteus Muscles which all serve a slightly differing purpose in movement. The Gluteus Maximus which is the largest of the Glute muscles gives the size and shape to the Butt. When sprinting, lunging and even squatting the Gluteus Maximus is the prime mover which extends the hip joint (pushes the upper thigh behind you). The Glute Medius is as the name suggests, the middle sized Glute. It is involved in Abduction of the leg but of more importance to the runner is it’s effect on the pelvis when the leg is fixed. The Gluteus medius works to raise the none weight bearing side of the pelvis to the sky

The Gluteus Medius also works with Gluteus Maximus and a series of smaller deeper hip muscles to rotate the femur laterally. Once again, of more importance is its effects on the upper body when the leg is in stance phase. The lateral rotator muscles will help to stop the upper body rotating in towards the stance leg. This is of importance when discussing injuries of the knee related to excessive rotation during running (see common running injuries)

The Gluteus minimus is smaller and is also involved in hip abduction and also medial rotation of the hip. Some of these muscles serve differing purposes depending on the positioning of the hip but as a guide their primary functions are as stated above

As mentioned the Gluteus muscles are involved in keeping the pelvis level during gait and also control inwards rotation of the upper body during stance. These two factors are of importance when discussing running related injuries

Bum Muscles and Illiotibial Band (ITB) Syndrome

Weak Glutes can result in the falling of the pelvis on the opposing stances leg, this leads to an increase in the stretch on the ITB. Similarly internal rotation of the femur increases tension on the ITB. It is thought the increased tension will increase friction on the lateral knee resulting in what is termed ITB syndrome. 

Research indicates that runners with ITB pain have increased internal rotation of the femur and excessive hip adduction (Noehren et al, 2007, Ferber et al, 2010). Weak hip abduction is found when comparing affected sides of athletes to those unaffected (Fredericson et al, 2000). Other small studies have showed no weakness in hip abduction with ITB pain. Further studies of randomly assigned runners into a control groups and hip strengthening groups prior to beginning a running program are needed to put this debate to bed. Despite this most physiotherapists support the use of a Gluteus strengthening program to prevent and treat ITB pain

Bum Muscles and Patellofemoral Pain

Lateral movement of the patella is related to tighter and stronger muscles of the lateral leg compared to the medial. Internally rotating the femur may bring the vastus lateralis (outside quadriceps) muscle into a position of mechanical advantage. External rotation may have the opposing effect bringing the VMO (medial quadriceps) into more dominant position.

Patients with patellofemoral pain present with decreased external hip rotation and abduction strength and increased hip internal rotation during functional activities (Ireland et al, 2003, Robinson et al, 2007). Strengthening of the hip external rotators namely Gluteus Maximus and Medius may keep the femur in a more optimal alignment preventing lateral quadriceps dominance

Exercise Programs for the Gluteus Medius and External Hip Rotators

Exercises for the Gluteus muscles should focus on strength endurance as opposed to absolute strength. Exercises should be chosen in regards to the length tension relationships and body position you’re trying to establish. A number of online programs for runners do exist, many of which contain rotation and mobility exercise for the hips which place the knees and hips in a jeopardized position. Exercises which contain crossing over and twisting movements where by the knee drifts medially and the leg is adducted beyond the midline will do nothing for improving running posture and preventing injuries. This is similar to prescribing round back deadlifts to strengthen the lower back. Increasing strength is only part of the issue correcting movement patterns is of greater importance for injury prevention

The below list of exercise’s that specifically target the Gluteus Medius, some fibres of the Gluteus Maximus and the deep external hip rotators. Videos are included for each of the exercises. If you have access to the appropriate equipment and are following one of our runners strength programs you can substitute any of the rotation Gluteus exercises with another hip rotation exercise’s to add variety to your program. There is no need to complete all the Glute exercises every session aim for one exercise from the rotation category and one from the abduction category

Rotation Exercises

Training the External hip rotators helps to stabilize the knee during activities such as running and jumping. Having stronger external hip rotators can help reduce the risk of developing patellofemoral pain and ITB pain. If you're a sports player, you can also reduce your chances of ACL tears. Due to anatomically wider hip women have higher incidences of these injuries and will benefit the most from the strengthening program

Lying Clams

Difficulty: Beginner

Benefit: Strengthens deep external hip rotators

Repetitions: 20-40 each side

Three Point Clam

Difficulty: Beginner

Benefit: Strengthens the deep hip external rotators

Repetitions: 20 each side

Single Leg Theraband Push

Difficulty: Intermediate

Benefit: Strengthens hip external rotators and the muscles associated with maintaining the arch of the foot

Repetitions: 15 each side

Single Leg Theraband Twist

Difficulty: Advanced

Benefit: Strengthens external hip rotators and the muscles associated with supporting the arch of the foot

Repetitions: 10-15 each side

Single Leg Medicine Ball Throw

Difficulty: Advanced

Benefit: Strengthens external hip rotators and the muscles asssociated with supporting the arch of the foot

Repetitions: 15 each side

Abduction Exercises

Abduction exercises strengthen the gluteus medius muscle. Having a strong gluteus medius can help with effective transfer of power whilst running. Improved strength will also reduce your risk of developing ITB pain

Lying Leg Abductions

Difficulty: Beginner

Benefit: Strengthens gluteus medius

Repetitions: 10-30 each side

Standing Leg Abductions

Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate

Benefit: Strengthen Gluteus Medius

Repetitions: 10-30  each side

Side Bridge with Leg Abductions

Difficulty: Intermediate to Advanced

Benefit: Strengthens Gluteus Medius and Obliques

Repetitions: 10-20 each side

Personal Training Locations -

Coogee, Maroubra, Rushcutter's Bay, Queens Park, Centennial Park, Bronte 

Phone: 0401 396 722 

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