Don't Forget The Gluteas!

Do you have a stubborn running injury that won't go away? Do you ignore working your gluts in your training while focusing on your quadriceps and hamstrings? Most people fail to recognize that many common running injuries are often traced back to weak gluteals, namely the gluteus maximus and the gluteus minimus.

The gluteus maximus is the larger of the gluteals. Its primarily extends your leg/hip while you are walking. If you have a weak gluteus maximus, you may develop limited range of motion in your hip, poor running form, slower speeds and muscle imbalance that often leads to injury. The smaller of these muscles, your gluteus medius, has an even more important role. Located on the outer surface of your pelvis, it is responsible for stabilizing and balance your hips. when balanced on one leg, as is the case when walking and running. With exercise programs designed without emphasis on the the gluteals, many runners and athletes suffer from poor balance, and they do not even realize it.

How are they able to run with poor balance? They compensate by using other muscles that aren't intended to be used for balance. Over time, runners with poor balance will develop bad form and alignment issues in their hips leading to pain and injury. Common running injuries due to weak gluts include ITB syndrome, patellar tendinitis, hip flexor tendonitis, achilles tendinitis and even plantar fascitis.

How do you check your balance to see if this may be your problem? Practice standing on one leg with your knee slightly bent and time yourself. Repeat the same activity on your opposite leg. Pay attention to see if one leg easier to stand on than the other and assess if you have pain while standing on either leg.

Another, more challenging test (if the first is too easy) is to try a single leg squat. Try standing on one leg and while maintaining your balance, complete a squat. Are you able to maintain your balance? Does your knee bow inward or outward? Do you have pain and/ or difficulty completing the task? If so, you may need to work on strengthening your gluteals.

Most people who run will experience at least one or more injuries over the course of their running career. There are many simple ways to prevent these injuries without spending hours at the gym, using fancy equipment or lifting heavy weights to achieve good results. Effective exercises to strengthen the gluteals and improve your balance can be done with no equipment and with a minimal amount of time/effort.

If you are interested in prolonging your running career or improving your running form/overall health, a visit to a knowledgeable physical therapist can be a very helpful and beneficial way to achieve your goals. Although the gluteals are important, they are just one of many muscles groups involved in running and other athletic activities whose dysfunction and imbalance can lead to injury. Mary Lou Corcoran Physical and Aquatic Therapy has experienced clinicians who work with runners and athletes at varying stages of their lives, helping them relieve pain and return to a lifestyle that is important to them.

Many injuries, if caught early, can be healed much quicker and easier if stopped before they are serious. Don’t wait until the pain is severe before looking for help. If you are experiencing pain, consider calling us at (315) 637-4747 to schedule an appointment with one of our physical therapists for an evaluation and movement analysis screening; it may be the best decision you make in your efforts to maintain an active and healthy lifestyle.

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