I had a number of issues with my knee and hip a couple of years ago and I was convinced it was a problem with the knee itself.
After seeing a specialist, it turned out it was due to have weak glutes that were causing an imbalance that gave me the other issues. So the question is, are your glutes important for trail running.
Your Glutes muscles are very important for trail running due to the fact that they are the primary muscles for speed and generating power. They also play a huge role in stabilising the pelvis and controlling our lower legs.
Believe it or not, your glutes play a huge part in whether you stay injury-free or not, which is something I managed to learn the hard way.
So What are Glutes Anyway?
Well, your glutes are made up of three muscles in your butt:
The Gluteus Maximus is the main muscle of the group and works when you raise your leg to the side, rotate your leg, or thrust your hips forwards.
The Medius and Minimus basically work together to support the Maximus when raising your leg to the side as well as helping to rotate your thigh outward when your leg is straight or inwards when you bend at the hip.
Your Glutes help support your body when you stand up and give you a better balance in general.
Did you know that your glutes are also one of the biggest muscle groups in your body? It’s so important to make sure they are strong.
If you have weak glutes then your other muscles can pay the price.
Some of the symptoms of having weak glutes are as follows:
- Pain in the Hips
- The tightness of the Butt
- Tight Hamstrings
- Lower Back Pain
- Knee Pain
- Tight Calves
- Ankle Pain
It really is amazing how this muscle group can affect different areas of your body.
As I said previously, I had a lot of hip and knee pain during some of my training runs when I was out on the trails. Sometimes the pain was so intense when running that I had to walk due to the discomfort.
I went to see my sports physio who told me (after examination), that one of the main factors of my pain was having weak glutes. So, I was given a set of exercises to help strengthen the area and within a week or two I was pain-free, running, and training normally again.
Now, of course, as with any strength exercises, you shouldn’t exclusively work on one body part to fix the issue at hand. If I had totally focused on glute exercises alone, then I probably would have issues elsewhere because I would have caused an imbalance.
The main issue I had was that I was doing some strength work that was integrated into my running, but I wasn’t doing any work at all on my glutes which left them weak and eventually led to the injuries I have just mentioned.
Exercises to Strengthen Your Glutes
As I said earlier in the post, doing glute exercises alone won’t be the ultimate fix for your issues. It will fix some of the issues outlined above but you have to strengthen everywhere with the right strength training program.
At this point, it’s worth saying that no matter what sport you enjoy, whether it be running, cycling, swimming, walking, etc. It’s always worth incorporating some form of strength training into your routine.
With that said, let’s take a look at the best glute exercises for you to incorporate into your strength training program.
Lying Leg Raises
This is one of the simplest exercises but it is great for activating both the Hips and Glutes.
Try doing sets of 20 on both sides and whilst lying on your back. If 20 is too much, start by doing as many as you can do with the correct form, even if it’s only 7 or 8.
I tend to go with 3 sets of 20 for each leg, but if you are just starting out, it might be worth doing one set of each until you feel comfortable doing more.
Why not check out the videos below for a more visual explanation.
The Glute Bridge
This is one of the best all-round strengthening exercises that you can incorporate, especially if you like to run.
There are a number of variations you can use to change up this exercise a little. You can hold for 30 seconds in the upright position, or move your butt up and down from the ground for 20 reps, or as many as you can manage if 20 is too much right now.
You can even do it single-legged to increase the intensity of the exercise. This is definitely an exercise you should incorporate into your routine.
When I spoke about doing exercises that target many muscles, the kettlebell swing is the king in my opinion and one of my favourite all-time exercises.
The kettlebell swing works all of the following areas:
- Grip – yes your hand strength.
It’s a simple and fast way to incorporate a very athletic movement into a routine safely while burning a ton of calories. This is my go-to exercise without exception, and I would suggest it becomes yours as well. It is so easy to perform in the gym, or most definitely at home.
When performing a Kettlebell swing, good form is essential, so take a look at the video below to see how it’s done the right way.
This is a very basic exercise but it is great for the hips and glutes again.
Lay on your side, legs together. Keeping your feet together, begin to raise one knee away from the other as high as you can without separating the feet.
Looks like a clam right?
Try 15 to 20 reps each side over 3 sets.
To intensify the exercise, use a resistance band for more of a burn.
This is another fairly straight forward exercise that is easy to perform.
First of all position yourself on all fours on an exercise mat, with your hands under the shoulders and the knees under the hips.
Keeping the right knee bent at 90 degrees, flex your right foot and lift your knee to hip level so that your foot is parallel to the ceiling, all the while squeezing your hips;
Lower knee without touching the floor and lift again, completing 10-12 reps per side for 2 to 3 sets.
I had so many injuries and niggles as I began to increase my running and I thought it was due to anything other than my glutes. It’s almost a forgotten muscle in terms of making sure it’s strong.
I would most definitely add glute exercises into any fitness program as you will find that you are less injury-prone by doing this.
It certainly worked for me in the past. Doing strength work as well as cross-training alongside your fitness goals will make so much difference to you and how you feel generally.
So I hope these exercises to strengthen your glutes were of use to you and you think about incorporating them into your routines – my favourite is the kettlebell swing without a doubt as it’s ideal for an all-over body workout and can be done virtually anywhere – let me know yours.
I have been running for around 4 years now, having completed a number of marathons and ultramarathons. I am by no means an expert and feel that I am learning everyday when it comes to...
You might be thinking that as you reach the age of 50 and beyond that starting to trail run is completely out of the question. In 2017 I would have probably told you the same thing, until 15...