Buns of Steel?
Low back, hip and knee pain can be caused by a miriad of dysfuctions, however when assessing for the potential cause or causes, it is imperative to consider glute activation, or lack thereof!
Your gluteal muscles are like an extension of your core muscles, providing stability and strength to the lower abdomen and hips. Dysfunction or inactivation of the gluteal muscles can force the lower back muscles and lateral thigh muscles to work harder, fatigue earlier and eventually change your movement patterns.
Altered movement patterns will cause broader reaching dysfunction and is why I can link distal pains back to these muscles.
If you are concerned that your gluteal muscles aren’t activating properly and want to have them specifically assessed, book an appointment before trying these exercises. Remember, it is VERY difficult to activate a muscle that has been inactive for a while, as the surrounding muscles that are used to compensating will activate instead!
Glute Strengthening Program
Complete 3 rounds of these exercises 3-5x per week
Clams: A great strengthener isolator of the gluteus medius muscle, which is often weak in this pain profile.
Start by lying on your side, supporting your head with a bent arm or a pillow, bending your legs and stacking your knees on top of each other. Look down at your hips and make sure that they too are stacked and not leaning backwards.
Open your top leg by raising only your knee and concentrate on contracting your gluteal muscle. If you are unsure put your top hand on your glutes and feel the muscle squeeze.
Aim for 15-20 raises each side, but only go as many repetitions as you can feel your glute contract. If it stops contracting you’ve reached your limit!
Prone heel squeeze
This exercise works the glutes and low back muscles and inhibits contraction of the hamstring which can be big compensatory muscles for the gluteals. When the gluteals aren’t working your hip stability is also reduced which means you may get sorer running on uneven surfaces like the beach or a trail. Additionally the increase in frequency or intensity of running (or another sport) can exacerbate dysfunctional hip joints and lead to low back or hip pain.
Start lying on your tummy in this exercise with your chin resting on your hands. Open your knees so that they are about as wide as a yoga mat and then touch the ankles together.
Squeeze the glutes to push the knees upwards and feel for the contraction. Like the first exercise continue the repetitions until you lose the contraction. Aim for 15-20 heel squeezes.
Glute Bridges: Finally, a glute bridge is a great all-rounder and as you lower your hips to the ground you work your abdominal muscles too! There are many variations of the glute bridge to target particular muscle groups, but the aim of this particular glute bridge is to work all of the gluteus muscles - maximus, medius and minimus.
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent so your heels are close to your glutes. Slowly raise the hips high by squeezing the glute muscles, whilst keeping the thorax (mid to upper back) and neck in a straight line. Feel again for the contraction and stop when the contraction moves into the hamstrings or low back. Slowly lower yourself down to the mat again. Aim for 15-20 repetitions.