Last month Kaci Licktieg, Team Pearl Izumi ultrarunner and physical therapist, presented some tips for keeping your legs happy throughout the winter. She brings up a good point about how slick, wintry surfaces can place increased demands on our stabilizing muscles. Lack of proximal strength, specifically in the gluteals, has been indicated in a number of musculoskeletal injuries including iliotibial band friction syndrome, patellofemoral pathology, and low back pain. So before the temperatures and number of weekly miles rise, you should get hip!
As we run, the gluteals assist in advancing our center of gravity forward over a planted foot, help keep our pelvis level, and prevent any excessive adduction or internal rotation of the femur. To preferentially target the glutes, one recent article based on fine wire EMG data from the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy recommends the following:
Clamshells with theraband resistance
Sidestepping with theraband resistance
Unilateral hip extension (with knee flexed or extended) from quadruped on forearms
Of the 12 exercises examined including squats and lunges, the authors determined that 5 listed above were best in maintaining a high ratio of gluteus maximus/medius to tensor fascia latae (TFL) recruitment. Because TFL additionally acts as an internal rotator of the femur, compensation with this muscle in the presence of gluteal weakness has been indicated in some of the aforementioned hip and knee pathologies.
Another article from the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy utilized arguably less accurate though definitely less invasive surface EMG data to examine 21 different hip strengthening exercises. From these, the following were identified as the best for gluteus maximus and minimus activation:
Sidleying forearm plank on either side elevated with added hip abduction
Though specific set and repetition guidelines were not made, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends >15 repetitions for muscle endurance training. Happy training!
Titles of Articles used: