Understanding the Gluteal Muscles

 
It’s a message we as runners hear consistently: Do your glute exercises!

I certainly seems to be the consensus within the the Sports Medicine community that the function of your gluteal muscles, and hip strength / stability in general, is a big factor in protecting our knees when we run. In fact the consequences of having poorly functioning glutes can be wide-reaching across the body.

While we often talk about ‘the glutes’ in general, I am however often surprised how infrequently we discuss the differences between the different muscles that comprise the glute complex.

In the video above, I take a few minutes to explain the differences between Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus; their individual anatomy, functions and role in running gait.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Runner’s Knee Rehab Resources [PDF]

About The Author

James has an academic background in Sport Rehabilitation and a special interest in Applied Biomechanics. He currently coaches a large number of Runners and Triathletes across all levels of ability and performance. He's grown a strong reputation for enabling athletes to improve their running performance and overcome running injuries through improving their Running Technique and developing Running Specific Strength.

 

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35 Comments

  • Excellent video – you explain it all really well – thank you!

    • Thanks Gill :)

      What other topics would you find helpful?

      Cheers,

      James

  • Great video James!

    Short and informative. Great majority of commonly available information advises people on what to do but not why do thy need to do it, therefore leaving them without basic understanding what exactly they trying to achieve conducting a certain set of exercises (similar to: “if you want to improve your running then stand on your head and eat 5 jelly beans 5 times a week”). It was nice to hear such a content covered just in 9min time. Hope to see more of these in the future.

    • Thanks Ivan!

      Short, insightful and practical were the three words I had in mind when filming this. Glad it came across this way :)

      I completely agree with you. In my experience, when it comes to rehab exercises to be done as ‘homework’ athletes tend to be more compliant when they understand WHY they are doing each exercise…

      I’m looking to produce a whole load more video content in the coming months. Let me know what you’d find helpful, and I’ll look to cover it in a future video.

      Cheers,

      James

      • Jame, perhaps you could put together some information on core development specific to endurance athletes. There is plenty of things out there on crunches and other dynamic workouts, however, the question is whether anything out of it actually relevant to endurance running?

        • Thanks Ivan, I’ll add these to the to-do list :)

  • Hi,
    Thx for the video, the exercises will be useful. Ive been running for a while and started to do more core work and leg strengthening and I’m seeing a difference in my times! Just one comment, it would be handy to see. Picture of where the different muscles actually are, rather than describing them?
    Thx.

    • Hi Tina,

      Thanks for the comment. Great to hear that you’re feeling the benefit of the added exercises. Good idea re the diagrams. I’ll see what I can do for future videos. Helpful feedback :)

      Cheers,

      James

  • Hi James

    Thanks for that very insightful information. You ask what other videos we might like to see. I have read a brief report about the importance of using our arms properly to aid propulsion (I assume) during running. Can you do a video explaining how and why we should use them.

    Many thanks

    Lisa – a newbie to running.

    • Thanks Lisa, watch this space for more videos! I’ll definitely cover arm action soon.

      Cheers,

      James

  • Great video James,

    Can I just ask a quick question personal to me; I have a leg length difference of aprox 1″ due to broken femur years ago. When I land on my long leg, my other hip drops massively. The other side is fine and very level. Is it my long leg glute med that needs work or my short leg glute med. I can’t decide which is the weak one.

    Many thanks

    Jan

    • Thanks Jan, glad you enjoyed the video.

      In terms of your specific case, (with the caveat of having not assessed you etc…) it sounds like your body has learnt to compensate for the significant leg length discrepancy, rather than specific weakness.

      The question has to be how successful it has become in compensating, i.e. are you able to run that way injury free with significant milage?

      Cheers,

      James

      • Hi James,

        Of course, a light bulb moment. Yes the original injury was over 30yrs ago so I guess my wonky body has very much a adapted to allow me to run very high mileage, marathon and ultra distance, without injury.

        Thanks a lot,

        Jan

  • Fantastic video James! So helpful. I just had a gait analysis and got some info and exercises, but you’ve helped it make more sense. Knowing how it all works together and the “why” makes a big difference to me. (Wish I could share the report & footage with you to get your take on it….)

    I’d agree that along with the description, some diagrams might be helpful, but you do a good job. The video of the exercises is very useful. I would suggest you drop the background music while you’re talking, a bit distracting.

    Thanks for sharing so much info and for asking how you can help us and for feedback.

    Possible topics: pronation, shoes and orthotics; exercises to improve strength & control of foot muscles; arm swing (balancedrunner.co.uk has been doing interesting elite analyses); shoulder & upper back rotation and how tightness/stiffness there affects gait (& what one can do). For starters :)

    I love that “Live to Train” shirt – where is it from? (I’m in the U.S.)

    Cheers!

    • Really helpful feedback, M! Thanks for taking the time to share this :)

      Lots of great topics there… My list of ‘videos to record’ is growing nicely.

      Check out Bonk Triathlon. Here’s the link to the t-shirt: LIVE TO TRAIN T-SHIRT

      Cheers,

      James

  • Great video, informative and nice to put things together with understanding when performing glute exercises.
    I would like to make a suggestion, if you don’t mind.
    There was alot of information given on your video and i think it would be useful if there was an animation accompanying your narration.
    Here is something i found via google when searching ‘muscles of the glute region.
    As we are talking specifically of the glutes in the running motion, a animated figure showing the movements you describe in your video would be fantastic.
    Keep up the good work and forward to further videos on running specific muscles.

    • Hi Dee,

      Thanks for the feedback. I’ll look into animation – No promises in the short term though, as I have a feeling it’ll come with quite a price tag to get something factually accurate created!

      When we hit the big time. I’m all-over it :)

      Cheers,

      James

  • James, thanks for the great video! You continue to offer a lot of great information. I have been getting a lot of help from your videos. I have some SI dysfunction and it causes piriformis pain and tight hip flexors. I also have 2 paritially torn hamstring tendons on that same side (proximal hamstring tendons). I’m doing your hip flexor stretch a lot and that seems to help. What other suggestions do you have so that I can get off my bike and be able to run and also not loose power in my pedal stroke? Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Maggie,

      Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! I’m glad you found the video helpful :)

      It may sound obvious, but one of the biggest factors to your success in being able to run comfortably off the bike is your bike fit. It’s important to find somebody who can fit the geometry of your bike to take into account your injury history… finding the best position for your SI dysfunction and not to excessively compress those proximal hamstring tendons.

      I’m no bike fitting expert, but I’d expect that the position which takes these factors into account will look somewhat different to the theoretical ‘most efficient’ position or ‘aero’ you could get into.

      I hope that makes sense.

      Cheers,

      James

  • thanks for the informative information. I’ve been running for a couple of years unfortunately I suffered patella tendonitis and stopped running for 6 months. It still hurts but I am back to short mileage. Exercise info like this is really useful, thanks James.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment, Phil!

      Good luck with your return to running. Are you doing much in the way of ongoing rehab work for your knees?

      Cheers,

      James

  • Great video very informative as are all of the videos that you put up.
    Thanks James you are very helpful !!

  • Hi James,

    Great video, very informative.

    If possible I’d like to see similar videos on other muscle groups (quads, hamstrings etc). Also perhaps you could include a bit of info on what signs / symptoms to look out for which might indicate a need for work on a particular muscle / muscle group.

    Looking forward to the next one.

    Cheers,
    Rob

    • Hi Rob,

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the video.

      Nice idea… I like it :) Will add to the list.

      Cheers,

      James

  • Thanks for the video and the updates which have been really good. Wondered whether the following article would change your view on the hip hitch as the most important exercise to activate Glut minimus / medius.
    DAVID M. SELKOWITZ, ET AL “Which Exercises Target the Gluteal
    Muscles While Minimizing Activation of
    the Tensor Fascia Lata? Electromyographic
    Assessment Using Fine-Wire Electrodes”
    2013 Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy

    • Thanks for this Paul, interesting stuff. The article offers some interesting insights. My biggest reservation in reading much into this type of study is that I know as a rehabber I can coach a client to execute a given exercise in a number of subtlely different ways to get a desired bias, overcome a given compensation pattern etc…

      In terms of targeting gMed specifically, I’d usually rather put the athlete in a weight bearing position and train it in more of an integrated environment, rather than looking for the biggest perceived bang for buck isolation exercise. It’s going to take something pretty earth-shattering to sway me on that!

      That doesn’t mean I don’t use clam exercises, 4pt kneel exercises, bridges etc… I just see them for what they are, a step on the way to the more functional, weight bearing exercises.

      Just to clarify: In the video, I used the hip hitch as an example gMed/Min exercise, not the ‘most important’ exercise for either!

      There are many ways to get the job done…

      Cheers,

      James

  • Thank you for these informative videos. I am recovering from a groin pull
    Such a painful annoying injury i haven’t been able
    To run for nearly 4 weeks . What specific strengthening exercises for the groin area do you recommend

  • Awesome video! Thank you very much for sharing and explaining. Definetly will be doing those exercises.

    • Thanks Pauline! Let me know how you get on :)

  • Thank you for that informative video! You did a great job at articulating, and for me as a physio, understanding the diferentiating roles of the glut med vs quadrantus lumborum in pelvic elevation and stability.

  • Tks for video(s)! I do believe some/most of us need to apply a more scientific, learned approach in order to improve our running form be it for comfort or competitive times.

    Many yrs ago when I was a freshman in high school, I was mile timed at 6:36. (“knowledge” was poor then, on my part as I ran on heels, and the 70’s science was lacking also, towards the common man especially; the track was poor grade/gravel also.) Another chap who was on the track/cross country team ran a 6:06. With hindsight now, I believe I could’ve run a 5:50’s mile, with proper form, nutrition, education, as well as training/nutrition advantages of today. (and most def a better TRACK!!) Yet, GOD only knows for sure.

    I’m 56 yrs young now (lol), going on “33” (;-) and my best timed mile thus far has been 6:42 (yr ago?) after being in triathlon discipline/training (sprints, Oly only, so far….) for 4 yrs now.

    I was (am….) hoping that I can get mile time beat, and progress near 6min mark. Only way is thru smart science + smart training, methinks. (tho’ GOD does do miracles everyday of each year…..meknows……) But….I seem to be stalled/plateaued and its frustrating to remain so.

    Hope your videos can help folk like me, looking to make “the jump” again to higher levels.

    Crack on ‘mate! Crack on!! (tks again!)

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