Target Muscle/s: Gluteus Medius & Gluteus Maximus
Sets & Reps: 3 sets of 12-15 reps
Tempo: Lift for 1, hold still for 2, slowly lower for 3.
Frequency: Include in your two strength & mobility sessions a week
The glutes are a very important muscle group for runners as they provide both stability and propulsion. Stability comes thanks to the gluteus medius (and gluteus minimus) found on the side of the hip, which stop the pelvis on the opposite side from dropping too much when you are standing on one leg (during the stance phase of running). Research has linked excessive pelvic drop with ITB syndrome as well as many lower leg injuries, showing that movement and control at pelvic level (proximal) plays much more of a role in what happens further down the kinetic chain at foot level (distal) than vice-versa. The gluteus maximus (buttock) helps the hamstrings drive the hip into extension, ultimately propelling us forwards. Many runners work hard at strengthening the muscles on the front of their legs (e.g. the quadriceps) but fail to devote sufficient time to the glutes and hamstrings on the back of the legs. The imbalance that occurs has been linked with knee pain, as well as performance reduction.
• Lie face down with a suitably tense resistance band tied around the ankles (or if you prefer above the knees).
• Draw a line on the ground using the big toe, feeling the tension increase in the side of the hip (gluteus medius) as you drive the leg outwards.
• At the maximum out position, hold the leg there for two seconds then slowly take three seconds to slowly return the leg back to the start position (just before band loses tension).
• To target the gluteus maximus (buttock muscle), perform the same exercise but moving the leg upwards instead of out to the side. Feel the glute tense at maximum height (without letting the lower back arch excessively), hold for two seconds and then take three seconds to slowly lower the leg back down towards the start position (just before band loses tension).
• To work the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus, combine the two movements, i.e. raise the leg upwards, move it outwards, move it slowly back inwards, and finally slowly downwards back to start position.
How Many Repetitions?
For the strength gains desirable for distance running, you should be aiming to fail by 12-15 reps, i.e. not be able to do any more. Unless you work to failure you will not stress the body hard enough to cause it to get stronger. Resistance bands typically come in different colours that signify their degree of tension. Make sure you choose a colour that fatigues you by 12 repetitions. Over time, you should find you are able to do more than 12 reps and will therefore need to start using a tougher resistance band.
If you get pain in the lower back when performing the leg raises, it may be because your lumbar spine is arching too much. If this is the case, try tilting the pelvis slightly in the opposite direction so that your lower back flattens out. You might not be able to get the leg as high but you should find the effort shifts away from the lower back and more onto the buttock. If you cannot perform this exercise without pain, as always seek help from a suitable qualified exercise professional.
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