Often the importance of maintaining strong glutes is overlooked, particularly with runners. I’m sure at some stage someone has told most of us to strengthen our glutes or our core in general.
Maintaining strong glutes is important not only to hold good form as a runner and prevent injury, but also in our daily lives to reduce the chances of postural problems and pain associated with this. Unfortunately, many of us have weak glutes as a result of the type of work we do – sitting down at a desk all day just makes our glutes weaker, as when they are not having to work they deteriorate in strength.
It is important to do exercises that specifically isolate the glutes to ensure you are really activating them and not letting stronger muscles do the work for them. When you perform exercises that use multiple muscle groups your body will automatically use your stronger and more dominant muscles, leaving your weaker muscles to gain little benefit.
For example, often runners have stronger quadriceps than glutes and therefore their quadriceps dominate. This muscle domination can eventually lead to over use and ultimately injury is likely to occur. It will also make it difficult for an athlete to reach their full potential as the domination of one muscle group will result in those muscles tiring sooner than they would if all muscles were fully activating.
Your posture, more specifically your pelvic tilt, determines whether your glutes are more or less likely to be activated. You can train your body to hold good posture (a neutral pelvic tilt) and thus allow your glutes to be activated naturally when performing exercises and taking part in sport. An anterior pelvic tilt (when the top of the pelvis is tilted forward) is down to tightness in the hip flexors and weakness in the abdominals.
So, stretching out the hip flexors and adding some ab work into your training schedule will allow you to resolve this over time. A posterior pelvic tilt is the opposite, where the top of the pelvis is tilted back. This is usually down to weakness in the hip flexors and can be corrected by strengthening these. Correcting your posture will allow you to gain maximum benefit from performing these exercises.
Swiss Ball Squat
The Swiss ball squat is a relatively basic exercise, which will allow you to work on glute strength. Of the 5 exercises listed, this would be the best one to begin with if strength work is reasonably new to your training schedule. Place the Swiss ball against a wall resting on your lower back. With your feet roughly hip width apart, take a step or two away from the ball and this will be your starting position. Keeping your hips neutral, your chest up and your shoulders back and down, bend your knees and take a seat on your heels. Try to get your butt slightly lower than your knees. Make sure that your hips stay neutral and your butt doesn’t curl under the ball as you squat down. Push back up to the top of the movement from your heels and repeat for 12-15 reps. If this feels okay, you can repeat this exercise for 2-3 sets.
Swiss Ball Hip Extension
There are a number of variations of the hip extension, all of which will work on glute strength. The Swiss ball hip extension is a basic hip extension made slightly more challenging by placing your feet on the Swiss ball, instead of the floor, adding instability to the movement and forcing all of your core muscles to work hard to maintain the neutral pelvic position. Lie down on your back and place your feet flat on the Swiss ball making sure that your shins are parallel to the floor. Push your hips up towards the ceiling and squeeze your glutes as much as you can, make sure your shoulder, hip and ankle are in one strong straight line at the top of the movement. Take your hips back down towards the floor and then push straight back up to the top. Complete 10-12 of these and if that is okay take 30 seconds rest before doing another 1-2 sets.
Swiss Ball Downward Facing Balance
This exercise is a little more challenging than the first two but don’t let that put you off! Start by lying down on top of the Swiss ball with your face pointing towards the floor, make sure your waist is resting on the ball and your elbows should be leaning on the floor for stability. Let your legs hang down over the ball – this is your resting position. To begin the exercise pull your belly button in, squeeze your glutes as hard as you can and lift your legs towards the ceiling, control the movement on the way back down to your resting position and repeat 10-12 times. Again you can do 2-3 sets of this exercise with 30-60 seconds rest between sets.
Swiss Ball Side Kick (Kneeling)
Start by kneeling with the Swiss ball beside you. You want to put the Swiss ball under your arm and lean over until your hand is on the floor and the ball is firmly between your arm and your thigh. Take your opposite hand and rest it on the ball in front of you for support. Make sure you keep your shoulders back and down, chest high, hips neutral, and your belly button pulled in. Squeeze your glutes and lift the leg furthest away from the Swiss ball so that it is fully extended and in line with your hip. Take a big deep breath and kick your leg forward and then back, keeping your belly button pulled in and your glutes squeezed tight – the movement should come from your hip and nothing else should move. Complete 10 reps (counting both the kick forward and back) and then repeat the exercise on your opposite side. If this feels okay, you can go on and do a second set on each side.
Swiss Ball Butt Blaster
Start by lying down on top of the Swiss ball with your head facing towards the floor. Put both hands down on the floor directly in front of the ball – they should stay in this position throughout the exercise. Bring one knee in and push it into the ball as far as you can, put your toes down on the floor and hold that strong position, your toes should feel like they are pushing your knee into the ball the whole time. Take your other leg and lift it up so it is parallel to the floor. Bend from your knee so that the sole of your foot is now facing the ceiling, keep your toes pulled towards your shin and pulse your heel two or three inches above your resting position for 10-12 reps. The movement should come from your hips and nothing else should move, keep your belly button pulled in and you glutes squeezed tight throughout the exercise. Repeat on the opposite side and continue onto a second set on each side if this feels okay.
These are exercises that we've found very useful and want to share with our customers. But we're not certified instructors. Always consult your specialist before beginning any exercise programme. This general information is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace your healthcare professional. Consult with your healthcare professional to design an appropriate exercise prescription. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your healthcare provider.