As runners, we're often told we need to strengthen our glutes – and often by the physio when we're injured. But why? What are the glutes actually doing when we run? And can glute bridges help?
The glutes comprise the gluteus maximus, which has the main role of extending the hip joint, and the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, which are both responsible for hip abduction (bringing your leg out to the side).
Because they control rotation of the hip, the glutes are key to generating both movement and force but also stability around the pelvis – especially when balancing on one leg, which is exactly what happens when you run.
If the gluteus medius is weak, other muscles such as the piriformis (another small muscle deep in the buttocks) have to compensate to keep your hips level, which can lead to injuries, such as IT band syndrome.
A weak gluteus medius can also cause the thigh to rotate inwards during running, which then causes the knee to drop inwards, placing strain on the knee joint and kneecap which can result in a knee injury.
So what exercises can we do to strengthen our glutes? Enter: the glute bridge.
'Glute bridges can be done on one or two legs and are used to target the glute and hamstring muscles,' explains Graeme Woodward, a UK Athletics Level 3 performance coach, UKSCA accredited S&C coach and We Run coach for West Yorkshire. 'The glutes are important in hip extension and the hamstrings in storing and releasing energy at fast running speeds.
'Glute bridges are an excellent conditioning and injury prevention tool as they can be used to develop endurance or strength, depending on how many repetitions are employed or how long you hold them for.
'Holding the glute bridge for an extended period will develop isometric strength, which is used at ground contact in the stance leg, and lowering slowly will benefit eccentric force qualities which are used to store energy in the hamstrings in fast running.'
How to do a glute bridge
Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
Raise your pelvis so your body forms a line from knee to shoulders.
Hold for 30 secs and then lower your pelvis.
To add difficulty, try doing it with one leg extended.
Sets/reps: Three 30-second holds
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