But you better have all your other muscle groups in the same great shape if you want to be able to run the distances you’re striving for. And by that, I mean not only your core but having you concentrate on getting your Glutes, Hips, and Hamstrings in the best possible shape that they can be in.
We know the core (hips, transverse abdominis, lower back) are important for preventing running injuries, but without exercises to strengthen your hips, glutes, and hamstrings, your body will break down, it’s a simple as that!
Once our glutes stop firing, our hip flexors (the muscles that pull the thigh forward) get tight and can lead to injury. … Your glutes work to stabilize the pelvis and keep the integrity of movement in the hip joint. When they’re strong, your lower back doesn’t bear the brunt of your motion, everything works as a team, both for support and for fluid muscle flow. Think of it this way, when you have your core, hips, glutes and hamstring muscle groups all working in synch your body is performing like the well-oiled machine it was designed for. Nothing is working harder to make up for another group of muscles under-performing.
So just what are the glutes anyway and why, and how do I strengthen them?
Your Glutes Are a Team! The three players that make up your glutes are the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. The Maximus is pretty much the M.V.P. … Plus, those smaller glute muscles help rotate your thigh outwards when your leg is straight, and inwards when your hips are bent. Both are located on the side of the hip, and most often get the cold shoulder. And while the glutes are not inhibited by other muscles, they can be under-conditioned compared to other leg muscles. The result: These other muscles need to pick up the slack.
Your glutes are one of the workhorses of the body, you’re using them all the time. They help support your body when you stand, help you push off the ground and give you better balance and posture. So, when your glutes are strong, every activity you’re doing from running to playing a round of golf to just plain walking is impacted by those amazing muscles! When your glutes aren’t strong enough to support you during your running or other activities the way that they should your putting more loading force on your hamstrings, which can injure them or other muscles, joints and ligaments that your hamstrings come in contact with, like your calves or knees. And any injury, especially dealing with your calves or knees can cause you all kinds of trouble if you’re in competitive running events!
The glutes are essential for hip extension, too. This is the part of your stride where your leg passes behind you. “If you don’t have strong glutes to drive the leg backward, you are missing out on a critical component of the running gait, so you can see why having strong glutes can help you to meet the goals you’ve set for yourself as a runner.
Below are a few exercises you can key in on to make sure your glutes can carry the load you are demanding of your body when your exercising and getting ready for those long runs.
Lateral Toe Touch:
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Lift one leg up to hip height with knee bent 90 degrees, thigh parallel with the floor and foot flexed, in a “marching position.”
Bend standing leg slightly as you step lifted leg out laterally and tap toes to the ground. Don’t allow the standing knee to track past grounded foot. Push back up to marching position. Repeat. Perform 10 reps, then switch legs.
This is a great exercise for training the lateral hip muscles in single leg stance.
Standing Hip Airplanes:
Place your hands on your hips and lift one foot up behind you with your knee bent and your shin parallel to the floor. Keeping leg lifted, turn hips outwards, opening them up. Slowly squat down a little, and as you squat down, close the hips towards the ground, allowing the lifted leg to track behind the standing leg. Stand back upright keeping the foot lifted. Repeat. Perform 10 reps.
We have multiple glute muscles, and each one has a slightly different function. In this exercise, the glutes are trained to control internal and external rotation. This rotational capability is essential for controlling the knee during the running gait.
Stand with feet hip-width apart. Step one leg out laterally, and sit back and down into a lateral lunge, keeping the knee of your standing leg in line with your feet. Push forcefully through your heels, extending both your knee and your hip of the extended leg to stand back up into starting position. Repeat. Perform 10 reps, then switch sides.
This exercise emphasizes both strength and motor control in the hips
Single Leg Toe Touch:
Stand with feet hip-width apart, one knee slightly bent. Bend from the hips to touch your hand towards your foot of the bent leg, while letting the other leg lift up and back behind you. Push through the heels to return to the starting position. Repeat. Perform 10 reps, then switch sides.
Here you’re focusing on the gluteus maximus through hip extension. With this exercise, try to keep your back flat, as if you are performing a deadlift.
Side Plank with Hip Extension:
Come to the floor and lie on your side, elbow bent 90 degrees directly under your shoulder, knees bent 90 degrees with feet behind you. Push up onto your forearm, hips lifting up and forward into a side plank, pause for two seconds, then lower back down to the starting point. Repeat. Perform 10 reps, then switch sides.
This last exercise will integrate all the hip muscles with the trunk muscles. “Our muscles and joints do not work in isolation, so it is important to ensure that these muscles can coordinate to create effective movement.
Working these muscle groups has other benefits as well since the glutes make up one of the larger muscle groups in your body, when you’re working them they ultimately burn off more calories, for most of us, that’s an added perk!
Now that you know what else you need to do in order to strengthen the glutes and the related muscle groups. Keep in mind that the best way to monitor your progress is by using a good, smartwatch like the Garmin Vivosmart HR 3 Tracker ! This is an activity monitor for those that take their fitness measuring their progress seriously. The extra Gym features that are built in are geared to handle any serious gym workout since it tracks, like reps & sets counters for strength training, while measuring the intensity of your workout sessions. You’re able to track everything you need from heart-rate (thanks to Elevate wrist heart rate monitoring), steps, distance, calories burned, floors climbed, distance traveled, intensity minutes, and VO2 max.
So, now that you know that you need to make sure you’re paying attention to strengthen those glutes, you just may be surprised at how after a period of time your finding yourself reaching your goals and having to set new ones because your body is working in synch.