Two years ago, I came home from a long run with a mysteriously swollen knee. My doctor told me to take a lot of ibuprofen and quit running for six weeks. Not liking that answer, I sought out a physical therapist.
It turned out that I needed to strengthen my glutes. It could have been muscle loss due to the natural aging process or dead butt syndrome (when the glutes stop firing correctly), or maybe both. But either way, my weak glutes were causing a host of running problems.
After two weeks of following the exercises prescribed by my physical therapist, I started running again. After three months of doing the exercises, I noticed my knees felt no pain, my back didn’t hurt, my body wasn’t as stiff in the mornings, and I ran faster with less effort.
Why Strong Glutes are Important
The glutes are one of the largest and strongest muscle groups in the body. They are made up of the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. Please refer to the pictures below from my old anatomy book.
Together, they provide pelvic stability, forward propulsion, internal and external rotation of the thigh, and help your leg move away from the body (abduction), and move your thigh toward the body (adduction).
Basically, glutes provide stability and power. If glutes are weak, other less powerful parts of the body tend to compensate which can result in poor mechanics resulting in injuries such as Patellofemoral syndrome (runner’s knee), IT band syndrome, and Achilles tendinitis.
How to Strengthen Your Glutes
Below are pictures demonstrating my four favorite glute exercises prescribed by my physical therapist.
- I call the first exercise “Marching Bridge.” This is a great place to start building glute strength.
Start in bridge pose. Be sure to keep your hips lifted throughout the exercise.
Lift one leg up and and then back down. This is one repetition.
Start with 5 sets of 5 on each leg. Work up to 3 sets of 10 on each leg. Do these exercises every day until you build strength and then back down to 3 days a week if you like.
- I call the second exercise “Up and Down Bridge.” This exercise is more advanced and I didn’t start doing it until I practiced the first exercise for a few months. If this exercise is difficult, you have weak glutes. Do the first exercise until you are strong enough for this one.
Start in bridge pose with hips high and one leg straight.
Lower hips to the ground and then raise hips back up to starting position. This is one repetition.
Depending on what is comfortable for you, try 3 sets of 5-10 repetitions on each leg.
- The third exercise is the Single Leg Dead Lift.
Stand tall with feet together.
Reach/hold the dumb bell the opposite arm to opposite leg (i.e., right arm reaches toward left leg while right leg lifts).
Return to starting position. This is one repetition.
Be sure to keep your abdominals tight during the exercise to protect your lower back.
If you are new to these exercises, start without any weight and do 5 sets of 5 on each leg.
Work up to 3 sets of 10 on each leg.
Then, add a 5-8 lb. dumb bell weight if you wish.
- Finally, the fourth exercise is side stepping with a band around your ankles. Try 3 sets of 10 on each leg.
Hope this information helps. Run strong, friends!