Why Your Weak Glutes are Cramping Your Running

Why Your Weak Glutes are Cramping Your Running

Glutes. Gluteal muscles. Buttocks. Whatever you want to call them, today we’re talking about how these very muscles are not only cramping your running style, but are hindering your performance, slowing you down, and even increasing your risk for running injuries. Yep, this one is a game-changer.

Introducing: The Gluteal Muscles

Three muscles make up the gluteals:

  • Gluteus maximus
  • Gluteus minimus
  • Gluteus medius

The largest and outermost of these is the maximus. It’s also the heaviest muscle in the body and the one you ‘sit on’, so to speak. It works to extend and outwardly rotate the hip joint. It’s crucial to activities like climbing stairs but isn’t quite so engaged in regular walking. 

The innermost gluteal muscle is the minimus. It is the smallest of the three and works to stabilise the pelvis during walking and running, as well as help with abducting the leg (lifting it up to the side) and internally rotating the thigh.

Then we have the gluteus medius. It is involved with the broadest range of functions, with the anterior part of the muscle helping to flex and internally rotate the hip, the posterior part of the muscle helping to extend and externally rotate the hip, and generally being the primary leg abductor (lifting the leg up to the side of the body) and hip stabiliser when you move – and especially when you run. 

The Effect On Running

Every time you run, your gluteals are working tirelessly to:

  • Keep you moving forwards efficiently in a straight line, instead of from side-to-side
  • Keep your pelvis and hips stable and prevent any unwanted rotational movements
  • Cushion the (massive) impact forces from running
  • Extend the hip to help you keep moving forwards
  • Decelerate your thigh as you move into ground contact
  • Help keep your knees stable and performing optimally

This means that when your glutes aren’t strong enough to do their job, not only will your running be tiring and inefficient, but you’ll also put yourself at risk of developing painful problems like:

  • Iliotibial band syndrome
  • Shin splints
  • Patellofemoral knee pain (runner’s knee)
  • Achilles tendinopathy

How do I know if my glutes aren’t doing their job?

The most accurate way is coming in for a lower limb biomechanical and strength assessment that our podiatrists in Toowoomba offer. But for now, you can try performing the single leg squat test (please be careful and do so safely!).

Single leg squat

Get in front of a full-length mirror. Stand on your left leg and lift your right leg up and straight out in front. Lifts your arms up to shoulder height and use them for balance. Move your hip backwards and bend your standing left leg so you begin to squat. Go as far down as is safe to do, ideally until there is a 90-degree bend in the knee. Straighten your left leg as you push up and come back to a straight standing position.

What you’re looking for is whether the opposite hip of the standing leg (in this example, the right) drops. Also look out for whether the standing leg (in this example, left) rotates inwards. These signs indicate gluteal weakness (particularly, the gluteal medius). 

Your biomechanical assessment with us

If running performance and overall strength are important to you, our comprehensive biomechanical assessment is the perfect start. We’ll not only assess your muscle strength, function and movement, but we’ll be able to show you via treadmill video playback exactly what your glutes are doing when you run and how it’s impacting your output. We find that understanding and visually seeing the impact is a great awareness reminder and will help you know what to look and feel for as you work to gain that strength and make those changes.

We’re even currently working on a squat-specific assessment too! Helping our patients optimise their health and their running is our speciality – we love helping you realise your full potential! To book an appointment, you can click here or call us on 07 4638 3022.

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