Updated: Nov 9
3 things you need to know about your BUTT!
Weakness of Glutes Maximus has been linked to knee pain and knee ligament injuries, low back pain, hamstring strains and ankle sprains
New Research shows strong glute max is the key for a fast sprint
Clenching your bum is not the answer - let it go for strong glutes
Do you know what happens if you don’t have strong glutes? Hopefully, you know what your glutes are at least!! If you are all over the importance of the Butt, let’s make sure you are doing your glute exercises properly, as we see a lot of clients who aren't!
First of all, let’s look at the why Glute Strength is important
Good glute strength and function provide us with power and stability, our three glutes (Gluteus Maximus, Medius and Minimus) work to stabilise the femur in the hip socket and keep us walking straight; from toe, to knee to hip; loading evenly through the ankles and knees and protecting against osteoarthritis in the hip. The Gluteus Maximus (Glute Max), the biggest of the three, is one of the largest and strongest muscles in the body. It is a powerful muscle that helps us to walk, climb stairs and run.
A 2019 research paper in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy found that weak Glute Max can contribute to knee pain, knee ligament injuries, hamstring strains, lower back pain and ankle sprains. All in all, there are a lot of issues that can be avoided if we properly strengthen our Glute Max.
There is also new research into sprinters, highlighting just how important the Glute Max is for running. Researchers at Loughborough University in the UK found that although elite athletes had greater overall muscle strength than sub-elite athletes, it was the Glute Max that really stood out.
The researchers found that 44% of variability of performance amongst the sample was explained by the size of Glute Max, this muscle was an incredible 45% bigger in elite sprinters than sub-elite sprinters (who are still incredibly fast). So if you are a runner, how big/strong do you think your Glute Max is? Could it do with some more work?
So if you are an athlete, a weekend runner or someone who simply wants to avoid pain through their lower body doing everyday activities, then improving your glute strength is important.
Many people do glute exercises, but the results we see are often not strong glutes - why? Often when we assess how you are doing your exercises we can pick up insufficiencies. It comes down to one simple question - “do you grip your bum when doing your Hip Thrusts and Squats?” If the answer is “yes”, you’re getting it wrong. If your answer is “I don’t know”, or “what’s gripping?” then you’re probably getting it wrong!
Gripping is the technical word for clenching or tightening a muscle, which is often done out of habit, perhaps a bad habit you were encouraged to engage in as a child! When you grip your bum, you may think you’re engaging your Glute Max, but the muscles you are actually working are your deeper rotator muscles. Your body gets used to using these muscles, making it difficult to activate the Glutes at all.
The action the Glute Max performs is hip extension, meaning your leg moves back behind you. Try this simple test;
Step forward on your right leg, so your left is in extension, now clench your bum - what happens? You are likely to feel your pelvis tilt forward and your leg slightly rotate outwardly.
In this position (with your butt clenched), try lifting your leg up behind you. It’s almost impossible
Now release your butt - lifting your leg becomes much easier.
We often grip because we have poor stability and we turn on our deep rotators to try and create stability.
Back to the exercises - You don’t need to grip when performing Gluteus Medius strengthening exercises, you want to isolate this muscle, so relax and let go of your bum.
Two great exercises for the Glute Max are the Hip Thruster and Squat (see our video library)
The hip thruster is the best to get started with, put a band around your legs, just above the knees and lift your hips without clenching, resisting the pull of the band as you raise your hips - follow our video for more guidance.
The squat is a little more difficult for many people, often people will collapse in and push forward with their knees, you can put a ball between your legs to stop them coming closer together, or put a band around your knees and push against the resistance. Remember the exercise is for your bum, so push you bum back as you go down, do not push your knees forward and do not clench! A great way to perfect the squat is practice with a bench behind you and reach your bum back to sit on the bench, keeping your feet where you are and then standing again. Check out our Bum to Bench video to get more advice on how to do this.
If you are unsure about your glute strength or how you are executing your glute exercises then come in for a Glute Strength Assessment and our therapists will give you a personalised treatment and exercises to get you moving properly!