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Train your Glutes to Improve your Hiking & Running

Some of you may have heard, but your glutes aren't just great for sitting on --they can also create a lot of improvements in your locomtion and balance too! Your glutes help to stabilize your pelvis and hips when you move, improving your gait, balance, stride, and power.


The glutes, specifically the gluteus maximus (the largest of the three gluteal muscles - medius, minimus and maximus) are one of the body's most powerful muscle group. As such, it has an important function in how you move and perform athletically. Weakness in this area sometimes leads to pain and injury, which can affect your physical performance.


Gluteus maximus dysfunction can be a contributor to the risk of injury, especially for those with a chronic problem at their legs or lower back. Two common examples are knee pain when running or walking, and spinal misalignment caused by a forward-tilted pelvis (called an anterior tilt).


A recent study assessing gluteus weakness in patients following knee surgery found that a lack of strength in the region increased shortening of certain muscles alongside the leg - creating tension close to the knee. This compensation was improved for those on a gluteus medius strengthening program, who found their recovery improved and pain was reduced.


Muscle Activation Techniques ("MAT") can help create change in someone with Dormant Glute Syndrome fast by activating muscles and reducing the time it takes to move with less discomfort and tightness. However, to prolong the benefits of an MAT session participants should train their glutes more frequently too.


What is "Dormant Glute Syndrome?"If you experience chronic knee pain, tightness in the hips, or lower back issues, dormant glute syndrome may be to blame. The issue is mainly weak glutes and tight hip flexors, which can cause compensating muscles to overload at other joints. Both hip extension exercises (which target the glutes) and abdominal bracing techniques (which stabilize the pelvis when the gluites are firing) can counteract the pain and strengthen these areas to help improve your running, walking and hiking.


Glute Exercises to Try

If you want to throw in some new exercises to strengthen your glutes, these bodyweight movements require almost no equipment and can be performed before or after a workout.


Try a sequence of these exercises together, allowing for a minute or two of rest between each round. Aim for three rounds and build it up to 4-5 overtime. Once you feel an improvement in glute strength, you can consider adding a set of light dumbbells to further challenge your muscles and build up strength.

Quadruped Hip Extension

To wake up your glutes, use the hip extension exercise. In order to isolate the glutes and reduce hamstring involvement, it's best to perform the hip extension in a quadruped position rather than laying prone (face down).


Do It Right

  1. Start in a quadruped position (on your hands and knees as if you're about to crawl).

  2. Tighten your core and contract your abs to stabilize the spine.

  3. To initiate this movement, focus on contracting the left or right glute tightly.

  4. Slowly lift the left leg up while keeping a 90-degree bend at the knee.

  5. The thigh should be close to parallel with the ground.

  6. Slowly lower to the start position and repeat 10 reps per side.

  7. To increase the intensity of this exercise, place a small dumbbell behind your knee, add an ankle weight, or try putting a mini-band around both knees.

Clamshell

A Pilates exercise to work your gluteus maximums, medius and smaller rotators, the clamshell requires an abduction motion at the hip, which means moving your leg away from the midline of the body.


Do It Right

  1. Lie down on your right side and align your hips with your shoulders in a straight line. Rest your head in a neutral position on your extended right arm or a pillow.

  2. Bend both knees in toward you at a 90-degree angle and place your other hand on the floor in front of you for support.

  3. Keeping the feet pasted together, engage your core (to stabilize the hips) and slowly rotate your leg at the hip to open up the knee. Squeeze the glute at the top of the movement for a few seconds before lowering back down with control.

  4. Repeat for 15 reps per side. You can challenge this movement by adding a mini-band around both knees.

Pilates Bridge

Another effective Pilates exercise, the bridge not only recruits the glutes and hamstring but lengthens the posterior chain (back of the body) to improve posture.


Do It Right

  1. Lie flat on a mat or towel and bend your knees to a 90-degree angle, keeping your feet flat on the floor.

  2. Press your tailbone into the mat as a starting position, keeping a neutral spine.

  3. Engage your core and take a breath in before exhaling and pushing through your heels to bring your glutes off the mat, bringing your hips above the ribs. Your shoulders will remain on the mat and your arms will float up to reach behind your head and rest on the mat.

  4. Squeeze your glutes at the top for a couple of seconds.

  5. Take another deep breath in and as you breathe out and lower the body and arms back down, one vertebrate at a time, starting from the top of the spine to the glutes. Imagine your spine as a bicycle chain connecting from top to bottom.

  6. Return to the starting position before repeating. Aim for 5-10 seconds at the top for reach rep. Peform 10 reps. To intensify, try floating one leg out in front (aligning both knees) and pressing through the heel of the supporting leg.

Lateral Wall Slides

A lateral glute exercise targeting your glute medius and minimus as well as your glute maximus. You'll need to back yourself against a bare wall for this one and be wearing socks or using a towel.


Do It Right

  1. Lie down on your right side and align your hips with your shoulders in a straight line. Rest your head in a neutral position on your extended right arm or a pillow.

  2. Make sure your wall is almost touching your butt. Keep your legs straight and extend your top leg back so your top heel hits the wall.

  3. Place your top hand on the top of your hip bone to make sure you don't move your pelvis.

  4. Press your heel backwards into the wall with moderate force, then keep pressing backward into the wall as your lift your leg up.

  5. Stop lifting your leg once you've felt your glutes and hips engage fully and your pelvis wants to move. Then lower the leg slowly still pushing backwards into the wall.

  6. Repeat for 10 reps per side. You can make this harder by adding more force backwards into the wall or adding a mini-band between your knees.


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