Core Training

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Runners Need Strong Glutes

posted by Gareth
Runners Need Strong Glutes

How much attention do you give your butt?  While this question is rarely discussed in our running circles, it is a question that deserves much attention.  Runners of all calibers search long and hard for ways to prevent injury and become more efficient athletes; not recognizing that dedicating five minutes to their behinds on a daily basis could save them hundreds of dollars in treatment costs and spare them the substantial physical and mental pain associated with injuries.

Common injuries stemming from a tight or overworked butt, range from lower back pain, to tight iliotibial bands (IT bands), to our highly neglected tight hip flexors.  While spot treatment may work for some individuals, those who suffer from reoccurring discomfort and injuries are still in search of a cure.

So, what does paying attention to your butt have to do with the aforementioned common injuries? A lot actually! The “butt” consists of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus.  The largest and most prominent of these constituents is the gluteus maximus.  The gluteus maximus is the most valuable to runners.  It is responsible for the external rotation and extension of the hip joint, in addition to supporting the extended knee via the iliotibial band (“IT” band).  While valuable, it is also vulnerable because of the volume of work required of it on a daily basis.

The simplest way to strengthen your butt is by using it.  Seems simple right? Prior to technology and the automation of nearly everything in our environment, it was.  Unfortunately, this is not the case as many runners work day jobs that require them to sit behind desks for hours on end ultimately leading to ‘gluteal muscle atrophy’ or put more simply, loss of muscle mass in your butt.  Without additional strengthening of this muscle group, runners fall victim to the aforementioned injuries in addition to several accompanying compensation injuries.

An Essential Part of Your Core

Because of the stability the gluteal muscles provide, they are accepted as a major part of your core.  Despite reminders from coaches and trainers to include ‘glute work’ in core training regimens, runners continue to focus solely on their abdominals muscles when “doing core”, neglecting their very important behinds.

Recommended Exercises

1) Clams-  Learn how






2) Fire Hydrants- Learn how






3) Kick Backs- Learn how






Other classics to try include:

4) Lunges- perform the classic lunge, making sure not to sink too deep and cause an overstretching of the hip flexor.

5) Squats- place your feet shoulder width apart, toes facing forward, hands behind your head, and sink deeply back.

See our Hip Strengthening Routine

The Golden Rule of Glute Work: Go slow and be sure to activate your gluteal muscles throughout the entirety of the workout.

Glute work can relieve tension in the lower back, and reduce tightness in “IT” bands and hip flexors.  After a few weeks of working your glutes you may feel that your stronger foundation is making running seem easier and you will be pleasantly surprised by your progression towards having buns of steel.

You know the facts; you have the exercises, now there is no excuse for leaving your butt unattended!

About the Author: Gareth Morl, was born in the UK and has spent much of his life abroad.  This fall he will begin his junior year at Santa Clara University where he is pursuing a Bachelors of Science in both English and Philosophy, while competing for the Cross Country and Track teams.

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  1. Peggy Malone says:

    Great Info! This is something I talk about every single day while working with athletes in my practice.
    The one thing I would add is the distinction between strength and function of the gluteal musculature.
    I have seen many runners who have obviously strong, powerful, well developed glutes but when I ask them to do a simple movement like a squat, the glutes do not function and the quads take over.
    This dys-function is part of what leads to injury.
    The key is to re-introduce your brain to your butt!
    So while doing all of these exercises, make a conscious effort to isometrically give that butt a good squeeze which will reinforce the neurological connection from brain to muscle.
    Happy running!!

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