Let’s talk about your peach (aka your butt) and how integral it is to running performance.
Your butt is comprised of 3 gluteal muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. They’re commonly referred to together as “the glutes.” It’s difficult to ascertain which exercises target which of the 3 muscles, as it varies depending on several factors. What can be determined is whether an exercise targets the upper or lower subdivision of the glutes, or both (like the hip thrust).
The glutes are either directly or indirectly connected to your lower and upper back, your hips, your hamstrings, your lower legs, and your pelvis. Due to the numerous attachment points and the sheer size of your glutes (biggest muscles in your body), if your glutes aren’t strong, a lot of other muscles will step up to take on the load, making you subject to pain, tightness, and even injury.
There are several assessments a trainer or physical therapist can do to determine if your glutes are pulling their weight, and I incorporate many of these into my initial assessments with clients. It’s important to know your underactive and overactive muscles at the start of a training program, so that you can work toward more muscle balance, which will help alleviate symptoms and get you on the way to achieving your fitness goals.
So what do your glutes actually do? Your glutes are responsible for hip extension (think standing up), hip abduction (to the side), and hip external rotation (necessary during several motions to prevent your knees from caving in). While these are important for everyday activities, all of these motions also occur during running, when you’re flying through the air and landing with 1.5x – 3x your body weight, so… it’s really important your glutes are working properly in order to protect your joints and not overtax your other muscles.
For instance, if your glutes are weak, your hamstrings and lower back might pick up the slack. You may be experiencing lower back pain bending to pick up your kids, or your hamstrings may feel super tight and it’s difficult to touch your toes. Or maybe your pain is in your knee, because your hip abductors are weak and they can’t counterbalance hip adduction, so your knees are falling inward while you run. Maybe your hip is the source of pain, since your pelvis is dropping with each stride due to instability from the glutes not being able to help hold it in place.IT band pain? Glutes are connected to that, too. Get the picture? Everything is connected, so you need to figure out the true source of your issue or you’ll just waste time treating the symptoms.
There are a variety of issues that could be causing your pain, but my experience training clients and myself shows that there are some common patterns, many of which involve out-of-balance power dynamics between muscles, the glutes being one of the main culprits just because they’re so big and touch so many other areas.
A solid training program for anyone, including runners, should include glute-dominant exercises. If you’re totally new to training, or you’ve never done glute-specific exercises, you can get started now by squeezing your glutes throughout the day. Then, progress to these exercises:
For more information on an assessment and training program specific to your needs, contact me [email protected] to help you get strong so you can run strong.