[Pierrie Miller is an Athletic Development Intern at Athletic Lab]

The first thing most of us might think of when someone says they are training their glutes are exercises like hip bridges or kick backs. Typically, some individuals think of these exercises as being more for women. As we get into more specific reasons for training the glutes, we will find that there are a lot of advantages to training this region. How many friends or athletes do you know that experience some sort of pain or discomfort to the front of their knee that radiates down their shin when either squatting, jumping, or running? It’s fair to say that we all know at least one person who complains of this issue. It could even be us.

One question you could ask them is how often they are training their glutes or better yet their entire hip complex? I’m sure some of them will say not that often or not at all. When we think of the human body as a whole, we know that it all functions together as a movement system to create fluid motion (Muscolino 2011). Over the course of our lives we may experience injuries or other dysfunctions that our body has to overcome. In terms of exercise, our body may start to develop faulty movement patterns to compensate for weakened or under-active muscles due to injury or from learned behavior over time. The more we ingrain these faulty patterns into our system the more comfortable and natural they feel. Comfortable does not necessarily mean they are correct or proper.

When thinking of movement patterns, almost all movements we do in sports or exercise, with the exception of a few, involve activation of the muscles associated with the hip complex, more specifically the muscles of glute area. When the muscles of the gluteus medius and maximus are weakened or under-active we see an increase in the opposing muscles which are known as the hip adductors (Herrington 2014). The muscles of the hip adductor region can create an inward rotation of the thigh and often what is referred to as knock kneed appearance in some individuals when squatting or just standing up straight. It has been discovered that weakened gluteus muscles can effect running and jumping mechanics which is associated with increase stress on the knee leading to pain in the front of the knee when walking up stairs, sitting, squatting and running (Boilng & Padua 2013).

So why should we train our glutes? Well, the muscles within the gluteus medius and maximus influence hip external rotation, extension and flexion. Also, the strengthening of these muscles have been associated with increase vertical jump, more efficient running mechanics, increase power and explosiveness, and a decrease in lower back and anterior knee pain “runners knee” (Fisher, Bruce-Lowa, & Smith 2013). I’m not saying that strong gluteus are the miracle drug for knee pain, but what I am saying is that is a commonly overlooked solution. Exercises like the deadlift, glute brides, hip abduction and good mornings are all good starting points for increasing gluteus strength and taking a stand against that nagging knee pain. So next time you hear someone complaining of anterior knee pain, just ask them, how much glute work do you do?

References:

Herrington, L. (2014). The Effect of Hip Abductor Muscle fatigue on Frontal Plane Knee Projection Angle During Step Landing. International Journal Of Athletic Therapy & Training, 19(4), 38-43.

Boling, m., & padua, d. (2013). Relationship between hip strength and trunk, hip, and knee kinematics during a jump-landing task in individuals with patellofemoral pain. International journal of sports physical therapy, 8(5), 661-669.

Fisher, J., Bruce-Lowa, S., & Smith, D. (2013). A randomized trial to consider the effect of Romanian deadlift exercise on the development of lumbar extension strength. Physical Therapy In Sport, 14(3), 139-145.

Muscolino, J. (2011). The Neuromuscular System. In Kinesiology: The skeletal system and muscle function (2nd ed.). St. Louis, Mo.: Mosby/Elsevier.