Sir Mix-A-Lot may have said it best, but as a reminder, runners need glutes! Gone are the days of having a flat butt and thinking it can perform to the standards you need, as well as hold you up during all of the jogging, mud-running, stair-climbing and racing that you want to put it through.
Your butt is composed of many muscles, but the glutes are the largest and most important for our purposes – the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimus and gluteus medius. You also have many deeper muscles on the backside of your hips and pelvis, and all of these muscles work together to stabilize your pelvis, back and legs while you are moving throughout your day. Even more important is what they do when you run.
Running, at the simplest level, is bounding from one leg to the other – you’re never on two legs at once. When all of your body weight (multiplied during running) is pushing off from one leg, that leg needs power to provide a good stride and to keep your pelvis and trunk level and upright at the same time. The glutes are these powerhouse muscles! They keep your form in check, prevent injuries, provide a strong push and keep you running efficiently. They also look like they defy gravity in jeans. Just check out Usain Bolt’s glutes – who doesn’t want that?!
If your glutes are not strong enough to do their job of stabilizing the body and providing push-off power, your running stride and form falls apart. Common running form flaws and poor movements due to weak or non-working glutes include “the Model Run” (think runway walk with hip drop), “knock knees,” feet flattening out, excessive lower-back arching, over-striding in front of your body and lack of stride length. All of these abnormal movements can lead to big injuries and a lot of pain, as well as time away from running if you don’t fix them early. Up to 95 percent of the runners, cyclists and triathletes I see in my clinic have glutes that aren’t doing their job.
Are you sitting right now? This is exactly the position that works against us by turning off our glutes all day. If you sit every day for work, commuting, comfort or just because it’s easy, your glutes may not be doing their job. Not only does sitting make our glutes weaker, but it also tightens our hip flexors and weakens our core, which together make it even harder to get the glutes working. When the glutes aren’t working, we call it Dead Butt Syndrome. Don’t worry though, your butt can be revived! Follow the steps below to test if you can activate your glute muscles, and then perform the exercises on this page to make sure your glutes hold you up through your races this year and look good doing it. •
While sitting or standing, put one hand on each of your glutes (butt cheeks). If you’re at work, then put your hands on your coworker’s glutes. Just tell them it’s for science. Now try to contract one side, and then the other. You should be able to contract one side at a time and feel the muscle tighten under your hand. Try this sitting, then standing and then while walking. If you can’t feel a good contraction of the muscle, use this as an exercise: keep contracting and relaxing each glute until it’s easy to turn them on and off separately.
Get Some Junk in the Trunk
Key exercises to turn on and strengthen your glutes
1. Start on your back, with knees bent and feet on ground
2. Lift one leg and hold the thigh to your chest, push through heel
3. Squeeze your glute of the down leg, push hips up and slowly lower back to the floor and repeat
Quadruped Opposite Arm and Leg with Elbow-Knee Touch
1. Start in kneeling position on all fours
2. Keep core tight while extending opposite arm and leg, try not to let your trunk rotate
3. Bring arm and leg back and touch below to knee, then repeat