Having strong gluteal muscles are pivotal in avoiding compensatory overuse injuries and prolonging your running career. The gluteals are primarily responsible for maintaining neutral pelvic alignment and absorbing the ground reaction forces during each series of single-leg stances that occur when running. So, if your gluteals are weak or not firing correctly, your entire kinetic chain is disrupted leading to poor muscle recruitment patterns and compensatory strain and overuse on other parts of the body. Multiple studies demonstrate gluteal weakness is associated with many common running injuries including runner’s knee, shin splints, and Achilles tendinopathy.
However, there are exercises you can perform before you run as part of your pre-run warm-up to isolate, strengthen, and reinforce using your gluteal muscles. Activation exercises are low-intensity movements to isolate specific muscles in the body. They help promote increase blood flow and start turning on certain neurological pathways to these specific muscles. These motor patterns which have most likely been silent during the day while sitting at your desk are not having their volume turned up from your command center in your brain.
Once the gluteals are activated and other tight muscles have their volume turned down through proper stretching and releasing techniques during your pre-run warm-up you will be ready to run. Here are three great gluteal activation exercises to start adding to your routine.
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
· Lie flat on the floor with one knee bent and one leg straight with your feet shoulder-width apart.
· Tighten your core and lift the leg that is straightened off the floor, extending it straight toward the ceiling.
· From here, push through your opposite heel and squeeze your glutes to raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your right knee.
· Hold for 3 seconds and attempt to maintain a neutral pelvis before returning to your starting position.
· Perform approx. 10-15 repetitions on each side.
· Lay on your right side with your right hip and knee each bent at a 90-degree angle and your left leg directly above your right leg but straightened.
· Lift your left leg up/down towards the ceiling with your foot bent towards you.
· Make sure your hips are stacked directly on top of each other and avoid rolling backwards.
· Perform 10-15 repetitions on each side of the body.
· Wrap a resisted band around your ankles and assume a partial squat position with your knees slightly bent and your feet parallel to each other.
· You will maintain this position throughout the exercise.
· Repeatedly step sideways in one direction in this squat position for a total of 10-15 reps.
· Repeat in the opposite direction