Now you may be thinking from the title that this is just for girls… but you boys can benefit from reading this too…
So you know that big lump of muscle (you may say fat) that you sit on most of the day, don’t deny it, we sit on it most of the time and then forget all about it, until we think about doing a leg day in the gym and then its non-stop hashtagging, #bootiegainz #gainz #legday #squatsallday but otherwise we pretty much forget about it, especially when out running.
As a runner, I’m sure you’ve felt that twinge in your knee or even right down in your Achilles while running or after you’ve been for a run. So you get home and you ice the injury but what if I told you that the injury is a symptom and that the cause of the pain could be a weakness in your Glutes? Or that bootie of yours that you occasionally train in the gym?
Before I start with what exercises can help you achieve strong Glutes that are essential for running and remaining injury free, lets explain what are the Glutes;
The Glutes are 3 muscles that make up the bum, the bootie, the arse, the butt or whatever you wish to call it. Those three muscles are the Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius and the Gluteus Minimus. The largest of the three is the Gluteus Maximus and it is this that people refer to when they are complimenting you on your bum. The other 2 muscles are located on the side of your bum, near and slightly above your hip joint.
The Glutes play a key role in running. The two smaller ones, Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus, are abductors, meaning that they move the leg away from the body. Gluteus Maximus is responsible for the hip extension, or raising your leg behind your thigh and knee behind you after pushing off with your foot. A good hip extension channels the energy of that leg swing into the forward motion. Without good hip extension your stride will never be powerful and you’ll never be as fast as you can be.
The other key role of Glutes for runners is providing stability for the pelvis and knees. Strong Glutes help maintain a neutral base and reduce side-to-side motion. This stability helps you to direct your energy forward, resulting in faster running at the same effort level. Also, when the Glutes aren’t working properly, some of the impact forces are transmitted elsewhere down the legs. Weak and/or tight bum muscles have been linked to common injuries such as runner’s knee, Iliotibial band syndrome, and Achilles tendinitis.
One challenge for modern runners is that too much sitting can lead to weak and tight bum and hip muscles. Over time, your Glutes can lose their ability to fire properly, and your hip flexors, located along the front of your body, can become shortened. Both of these problems can lead to core instability and limited hip extension when you run.
Exercises to help that bootie: (For ease of reference start with 10 reps for a total of 3 sets)
Single Leg Deadlift
Stand on one leg, on the same side that you hold a dumbbell. Keeping that knee slightly bent, perform a stiff legged deadlift by bending at the hip, extending your free leg behind you for balance. Continue lowering the dumbbell until you are parallel to the ground, and then return to the upright position. Repeat for 10 reps and a total of 3 sets to advance this workout, either increase the reps or the weight but always keep it in a controlled movement
Three Way Leg Raises
Using a resistance band, place it around your thigh just above the knee. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, raise you knee up and out in front of you, then keeping the bend at the knee pull your leg back until it is inline with your other leg but also slightly raised to the side (the movement is more semi circle than straight back and forward) and then continue the movement until your knee is pointing behind you. Pause for 2 seconds at each point. Your leg should be going Bring your leg back to the starting point and that is one rep. Complete your 10 reps and then repeat with the other leg. To advance this exercise increase the reps or alternate between legs on each rep to help work on your balance.
Single Leg Squats (Pistol Squats)
Start by balancing on one foot and then squat down, bending at the knee and sitting your hips back as if you are going to sit in a chair behind you. Once down to about a 90 to 115 degree angle in your knee, extend your leg back up to standing. If this is too challenging allow the toes of your hovering foot to lightly rest on the ground, or hold onto the back of a chair for support, or using TRX straps to support your weight. To advance this exercise, you can try balancing on different objects or try holding a dumbbell to add some weight to the movement.
Cable Side Leg Raises (In and Out)
(OUT) Abductors – Stand tall with one shoulder next to the cable machine and your legs about shoulder-width apart. An ankle attachment should be placed around the ankle that’s farthest from the cable machine. Place one hand on your hips, while your other hand is securely positioned on cable machine. Raise the weighted leg out to the side as high as possible. Pause and then reverse the motion back to starting position.
(IN) Adductors – Stand tall with one shoulder next to the cable machine and your legs about shoulder-width apart. An ankle attachment
should be placed around the ankle that’s nearest the cable machine. Place one hand on your hips, while your other hand is securely positioned on cable machine. Raise the weighted leg across and in front of your standing leg, as far as it will go without twisting at the hips.
To advance both these exercises either increase the weight or try to raise your leg higher as you get stronger.
Lie flat on the floor on your back with the hands by your side and your knees bent. Your feet should be placed around shoulder width apart. Pushing mainly with your heels, lift your hips off the floor while keeping your back straight. Breathe out as you perform this part of the motion and hold at the top for a second. Slowly go back to the starting position as you breathe in. To advance this exercise you can place a plate on your hips or use a barbell to add weight to the exercise.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell, a dumbbell or no weight at all, at waist height in front of you with both hands. You should be looking straight forward, with your chest up and shoulders back to start. While keeping your torso facing forward, place your left leg behind your right, taking a wide, lateral step behind the front leg. Descend into a lunge by bending your knees, lowering your body straight down. Continue until your front knee is at approximately 90 degrees, and then drive through the heel and stand up. As you come back up, return the back leg to the starting position. Alternate the movement; switch back and forth between both sides for a total of 20 reps, rest and then repeat. Advance this exercise by adding weight.
Now go smash that leg day in the gym butt don’t forget to work those Glutes if you want to run faster.