Your glutes are one of the largest and strongest muscles in the human body. The gluteal muscles group is comprised of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. The three muscles work in conjunction to abduct, rotate, and extend the hip. The glutes are in the center of the body and virtually any activity which involves movement of the pelvis, from bending over to pick up something to sprinting across a soccer field, requires activity of the glutes. Your glutes are an incredibly important muscle group for many reasons, including reducing pain, preventing injury, and improving performance.
The glutes are abnormally weak and inactive in most people today because of all the sitting we do. Americans in general, are prone to poor posture due to the nature of our society. We spend hours on end with our backs rounded and our shoulders hunched over during the day as we drive, use our computers/phones, or sit in class. When you’re seated in a chair your glutes are stretched and inactive. Over time, this posture leads to the development of a chronic muscle imbalances and puts a lot of unnecessary stress on other body parts.
Lower back pain and hamstring tightness are two symptoms that are commonly associated with inactive glutes. When the glutes aren’t properly activated, the lower back (erector spinae) and hamstrings are forced to do more work to produce the same movements. This extra load on the erector spinae muscles combined with tight hip flexor muscles can cause a compression of the lumbar spine. Because these muscles are not meant to perform this task, we often get strains and chronic pain in these areas. By activating the glutes, the body can function in proper alignment and less stress is placed on the lower back region.
Your glutes also function in preventing your pelvis from tilting forward. When the pelvis tilts forward, the belly sticks out and this overstretches the ligaments and tendons in your lower back, leading to constant lower back pain. Glute training should be part of a greater program of strengthening the whole body along with dropping excess fat to help fix the factors that lead to this type of lower back pain.
Also, a lack of glute activation can put the body at a high risk for internal rotation of the legs. Weak glutes can cause an imbalance in the hip, which may lead to excessive medial rotation of the femur and lateral tracking of the patella. This collapse of the knees inward towards the center of the body is commonly associated with devastating knee injuries. Athletes spend a lot of time performing
exercises such as the squat and lunges in their strength program. These exercises strengthen the quadriceps muscle group and can contribute to the imbalances and
anterior tilt of the pelvis. More focus should be spent on strengthening the posterior (backside) of the athlete. Strong glute muscles can protect an athlete and reduce their likelihood of lower body injuries.
Glute activation should not only be used to reduce lower back pain in untrained individuals but also to improve athletic performance. The glutes are in the center of the body and are responsible for movements from the hip joint. Running, jumping, squatting, and changing directions all require extension of the hip. While it is true that some of the power in the running stride comes from the quads and calves, the reality is that they only play a minor role in the ability to generate a powerful stride compared to the hips, hamstrings, and glutes. Hip extension drives the leg backwards after your foot contacts the ground and is perhaps the single most important factor in an athlete’s ability to run faster.
Simply put, glute activation is waking up your glutes and should be a mainstay in any training program. Not only does strengthening the glutes reduce pain and injury, but it also has been shown to improve athletic performance. Glute activation should be done prior to one’s workout or also can be used as an active rest between sets. It’s time to get off those butts and activate those glutes!
Tagged: Champion's QUEST, Champions quest athlete academy, glute activation, glutes, gluteus maximus, hip extension, injury prevention, jump training, knee injuries, lower back pain, performance training, reducing pain, Soccer Academy, Speed Training