Glutes – why are these muscles so important?
You may hear people (including us!) talking about how important it is to have good Glutes strength, but why is it so important? Our Myotherapist Alana thought she would delve into these muscles!
What makes up the Glutes?
Your Glutes are made up of the following three muscles that form your buttock area and they need to work as a team;
- The largest and strongest muscle of your Glutes and one of the strongest muscles in the human body.
- Attaches from the upper portion of your pelvis, sacrum and fascia of the lower back down to the top of your femur (thigh bone) and into the Iliotibial tract (ITB) which then runs down and connects into the side of your knee.
- Main action is hip extension and lateral rotation (rotating your leg/knee outwards).
- Important during high extension and force activities such as climbing stairs and running.
- Supports the knee when the leg is extended.
- Works with your hamstrings to bring your torso upright from a forward bending position by pulling your pelvis back.
2. Gluteus Medius
- Attached from the upper portion of your pelvis and down to the top of your femur (thigh bone).
- Main action is to abduct the leg (moving your leg out to the side) and medial rotation (rotating your leg/knee inwards)
- Important during single leg weight bearing positions (when one foot comes off the ground). This action occurs during a crucial daily activity – walking!
- But also vital in activities such as running, cycling & climbing stairs.
3. Gluteus Minimus
- As the name suggests, Gluteus Minimus is the smallest of the muscle group.
- Located beneath the other two muscles it attaches from the outer surface of your pelvis and in to the head of your femur.
- Its main action mimics that of the Gluteus Medius and assist to provide support during single leg positions.
What happens if they aren’t strong enough?
The result of Glute inactivity or weakness has been extensively researched and shows that it can contribute to many other lower limb pathologies.
Why? Because one of their main functions is to support the pelvis during activity. Therefore, if the glutes aren’t providing this support the surrounding muscles can overcompensate and fatigue as well putting additional strain through your joints and ligaments due to the change in biomechanics.
For example, if your right Gluteus Medius isn’t as strong as it should be, you may find that when you take your left foot off the ground your left hip drops down, even just a little. What happens with this change in pelvic movement is a twisting through the supporting leg which puts additional strain through the joints of the lower back, knee and ankle. Over time, this can create muscle tension, joint irritation and sometime pain.
Another example is if your Gluteus Maximus isn’t as strong as it should be, when bending forwards your hamstrings and lower back need to take on additional load to hold the weight of your torso. This can create muscle tension and joint stiffness over time, especially when lifting heavy objects on a regular basis. For all those parents out there, this includes the simple activity of regularly picking up your children!!
Signs of possible Glute weakness
- Knee or lower back pain
- Changes in lower limb mechanisms
- Knees buckling inwards
- Flat feet
- Weaknesses in ankles & feet
- Anterior hip pain such as tight hip flexors or TFL (Tensor Fascia Latae) due to muscle imbalances.
- Hip drop during single stance activities
- Other lower limbs pathologies
- Piriformis syndrome
- Hamstring issues
- Shin splints
- Patello-femoral Pain
What should you do?
If you are experiencing any pain or discomfort, it is firstly important to have an assessment to determine the cause of your pain as there are many other causes for lower limb pathologies.
Once your experienced Osteopath or Myotherapist has diagnosed your complaint, they will devise a treatment plan and provide any necessary treatment.
If you have weakened glutes, the next step is to activate and strengthen them using specific, low weight exercises to target the specific muscles. Your practitioner will prescribe these to you as part of your treatment.
An example of a Glute Strengthening Exercise
One example exercise that requires good Glute strength is the Plank – read our blog to find out correct technique.
But, keep an eye out for our upcoming posts on Glute strength exercises!!