You may have heard a lot about the glutes lately…here’s why.
The ‘glutes’ or ‘gluteal muscles’ are the muscles which make up the buttocks. Most famously Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus, but also many other smaller muscles found deep in the buttock such as Piriformis and the Gemellus and Obturator muscles. The role of these muscles is predominantly hip extension and rotation, either internally or externally depending on the muscle in question and its attachment points.
So, what’s the big deal about the glutes I hear you ask?
Well, here it is. The Glutes are massively important to our overall movement and posture. Gluteus Maximus and Gluteus Medius are the ones you will hear about most often when it comes to exercise rehabilitation. If the glutes in general are not strong and especially if Gluteus Maximus is inhibited (not firing at the correct time, if indeed at all), then the body instinctively recruits other muscles to do the job, resulting in dysfunction and often pain or injury.
Let me tell you a little story…
15 years ago, I was challenged by a friend to run the Great South Run with her. I had never been much of a distance runner, always preferring sprint events and team sports at school. But I took on the challenge and started training. I found the biggest problem which I repeatedly suffered with was tight calf muscles. This would develop quickly at the start of a run and continue throughout. This problem plagued me throughout the training and the event. I also completed a half marathon event a year or so later, and the same problem returned, in addition to a pain in my outer hips after a few miles.
I decided at this point that running wasn’t really for me and started training in a gym, doing more and more weight training. As a natural consequence of this and with a good PT, my Glutes got stronger and fired better. Last year I started back up with the running and have since completed another half marathon, with no calf tension and no hip pain.
Previously my glutes were not firing well as a result of the last few years spent sat at a desk studying and exercising very little. I couldn’t walk up a hill without my calves seizing up. When the glutes are not working when they should to extend the hip and propel the body forwards, the calf muscles often work overtime to get this propulsion done. In addition, with the hip pain, my TFL muscle (at the lateral hip) was working overtime because the Glute Medius was not strong enough.
- Glutes are also important in other scenarios. If the glutes do not fire strongly enough, the hamstrings must work harder, often resulting in hamstring ‘tension’ and sometimes even hamstring strains.
- If Glute Max is inhibited, the lumbar spine is less supported and so the lumbar paraspinals must work harder sometimes resulting in lower back pain.
- In addition, the lats may have to overwork to further tighten the Thoracolumbar fascia to support the lumbar spine. Tight, overworked lats can result in shoulder problems and even neck pain!
These are just three of the examples that I come across most often with my clients. Thankfully weak or inhibited glute muscles is something that can be addressed with activation drills and strengthening exercises.
If you suffer with tight calf muscles, or lower back pain ache which is worst in static postures, then get in touch…I’m sure we can help!