Why Runners need a Strong Butt
If you want to become a stronger runner, you need to work on your butt. In addition to making you look great in short shorts, it will help you run faster, be more efficient and most importantly, less likely to get laid up with a stupid injury.
For the past several months, I’ve been dealing with a nagging, stupid injury. It’s not exactly one specific thing, but many things manifesting in different ways: tight calves, a tender hip and recently a tweaked hamstring. As a result, I started seeing Amy – a PT (physical therapist) and LMT (licensed massage therapist). After the first session, she thought a lot of my issues had to deal with weak glutes.
All I previously knew about glutes were that they were butt muscles. I now know a whole lot more, and you should too.
What are Glute Muscles?
We actually have four gluteal muscles in our bodies, three of which exist to form your butt.
- The gluteus minimus, (the smallest), is situated immediately beneath the gluteus medius.
- The gluteus medius is a broad, thick, radiating muscle, situated on the outer surface of the pelvis.
- The gluteus maximus, the largest and most visual of the three. It makes up a large portion of the shape and appearance of the hips. It’s also the largest muscle in your body.
While running (or walking for that matter), the glute med and min are what support your body when on one leg. The glute max is what moves your hips and thighs. Without them, all else fails to work properly.
What the Experts say about the Importance of Strong Butts for Runners
Runners Knee… You can prevent it by working on glute med and max strengthening exercises…
Another question; “What is one thing that I could start doing right now to prevent injuries?”
Glute strengthening routine…
Hmmm… when you see or hear the same thing multiple times, from totally different sources, you should usually pay attention.
I asked her to elaborate and she told me that,
Glute strength is very important because it controls the entire lower leg and provides stability. If there is no stability, your legs can’t generate power. If you have weakness, other parts of your body try to provide stability and therefor you will have compensation and poor mechanics.
Thus leading to injuries.
I also asked Dr. Ty what he thought about the importance of glute strength for runners. He said,
Gluteus maximus gets a lot of attention for the force it generates during push off and for good reason. We also know it’s an important muscle in maintaining proper trunk posture while running, as well as controls deceleration of the hip prior to foot strike as evidenced in a 2006 study by researcher Daniel Lieberman in “The Journal of Experimental Biology” that focused on the role of gluteus maximus in running.
I also sent a text to a very good friend of mine, Ross, a PT and athletic trainer. I asked, “…I’m writing a post about why runners need to have strong butts. How important is glute strength for running and injury prevention?”
Extremely. Glute strength helps stabilize your pelvis as well as your knees. It prevents issues like Patellofemoral syndrome and IT band syndrome, both common in runners, as well as achilles tendonitis. We need our glutes and hamstrings to help with hip extension as well and shock absorption. Without them we rely to much on the wrong muscles which leads to problems. Our daily activities do not naturally work the glutes and hamstrings so we have to put more of a focus on them.
Ok, I get it! Runners should like big butts – or at least strong ones – to prevent injuries and get faster. But why are they weak?
One Reason Your Glutes Could be Weak
In Eat, Move, Sleep by Tom Rath talks about how our sedentary lifestyles may be affecting our overall health, not to mention glute strength. Sitting all day is bad! Several other sources say the same.
- Runner’s World has referred to sitting as the new smoking.
- Researchers have found that “those with sedentary behavior have 49% greater risk of dying prematurely — even if they regularly exercised.”
- According to Strengthrunning.com, “After awhile of sitting down, your muscles remember the position that you put them in. Your hip flexors get tighter. Your glute muscles stretch out and get weak. It’s bad news – so avoid prolonged sitting (or standing) as much as you can”
This awesome infographic says it best.
Our amount of time spent running each week, doesn’t come close to the amount of time spent sitting. As a result, our glute muscles aren’t needed as much, making them weaker when we want them to run. When you sit all day, your butt gets stretched out, making it more difficult to contract.
Best Ways to Strengthen Your Glutes (butt)
To combat this, you need to find ways to strengthen your glutes. According to a 2006 study by the American Council on Exercise and the exercise scientists at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, quadruped hip extensions, squats and lunges are some of the best exercises for isolating and building your glutes. You can do them with our without weights.
Additionally, Katie was nice enough to share several glut strengthening exercises they use at OSI. These are easy to add into your already existing, regular core routine.
Single leg bridge
Sideline hip abduction
Sideways walking band at ankles.
In addition to the gluteus strengthening exercises, it’s also important to move throughout the day as much as possible. If you have a job where you’re mostly sitting, get up and move every 30 – 60 minutes. Walk around the office, walk to ask a co-worker a question, etc.
What one or two things can you do today to be more active during your day? Leave some ideas in the comments below.