So much running power is generated from the glutes. A strong backside can prevent most common running injuries–but are you training yours for maximum output? Probably not. This is why you should (and we’ve got some exercises to help you get started).
Behold The Power Of The Glutes
Our glutes have a big job when it comes to running. They hold our pelvis level and steady, extend our hips, propel us forward and keep our legs, pelvis and torso aligned. So when our glutes are weak or not “firing” correctly, our entire kinetic chain gets disrupted. Studies have linked glute weakness to a variety of running maladies, including achilles tendonitis, shin splints, runner’s knee and iliotibial band syndrome.
Hamstrings, hips and glutes all play roles in propelling your body forward as you run. Many of the exercises below are geared toward strengthening these three key areas.
Put Your Backside To The Test
First things first: you need to find out if your glute muscles are doing their job. Perform these simple tests to find out just how much work you need to do:
Perform a single leg stand with your eyes closed and feet facing forward. If you cannot hold this position for one minute without falling forward, your glutes are not working properly. Do the test on each side multiple times and compare.
Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift
You should be able to perform several repetitions of weighted, single-leg Romanian deadlifts, touching the weight to the floor in front of your standing leg before returning to the start position.
Low back pain and/or knee pain can be additional signs of weakness in the glute area.
Even if you run 50 miles a week and then spend the majority or remainder of your day sitting down (at a desk, in a car, on the couch, etcetera), you are essentially turning your glute muscles off.
Glute Activation Exercises
Let’s wake up those glutes! These exercises can be done every day, but aim to do them at least two to three times each week.
Some of you may be familiar with this exercise if you have done any kind of physical therapy for runner’s knee or IT band syndrome, which is why it’s so good to do it as a preventative measure. Lying on your side, bend knees at a 90 degree angle. Stabilize your core and open repeatedly open and close legs at the knees, keeping heels pressed together.
Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep your arms at your sides with palms facing down. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.
Reverse (Slide) Lunge
You can do this move with or without the “slide,” but if you have a wood or tile floor and a dishcloth (or a gliding disc if you’re feeling fancy), place the cloth under your back foot and, in a lunge position, gently slide your back foot away from you as you ease into a deep lunge and pull the leg back toward you as you return to the start position. Switch sides and do as many repetitions as you can.
Mini bands are inexpensive and can be found in many gyms. You can do a variety of exercises with the band by simply moving it from your ankles to just below your knees. Start with the band around your ankles, feet facing forward with a slight bend in the knee and take steps laterally, using the full resistance of the band. For “monster walks” move the band to just below your knees and take large diagonal steps–10 steps forward and then 10 steps back–and feel the burn.
Stability Ball V-Lift
Lay on your stomach over a stability ball and lift one leg at a time, squeezing your glutes with each lift. Then place both hands on the floor in front of you, over the stability ball, and lift both legs at the same time, then lower down and repeat. Don’t forget the squeeze at the top!
Single Leg Deadlift
Stand on one leg and, keeping that knee slightly bent, perform a stiff-legged deadlift by bending at the hip, extending your free leg behind you for balance. Continue lowering down until you are parallel to the ground, then return to the upright position. Repeat on both sides and find your balance.