Does Having Stronger Glutes Really Reduce Your Risk of Runner’s Knee?

do stronger glutes make you less injured

If you listen to most physios, having a strong set of butt muscles comes with many positives; perhaps the most important being a lower risk of running injury.

Now, you should know me by now; I always like to see if hard scientific evidence exists to support such claims. In this case, there quite possibly is… specifically in the context of Runner’s Knee.

In 2015, Ramskov et al. sought to try and answer this very question. If you are interested, you can read the study in full here:

High Eccentric Hip Abduction Strength Reduces the Risk of Developing Patellofemoral Pain Among Novice Runners Initiating a Self Structured Running Program: A 1-Year Observational Study

The researchers took a large group of novice runners in Denmark (n=629) and designed a study to see if stronger hip abductor muscles (read: gluteal muscles) reduced the risk of developing Runners Knee.

I should start by saying that only a small number of runners developed pain in this study (4%). Other studies with similar designs have reported a much higher incidence of Runners Knee (up to 21%).

Despite this low number, the study also identified that runners with stronger hip abductors had a lower risk of developing Runners Knee during their first 50km of running, compared to those who were classified as weak.

What Does This Mean for Runners?

Is this the holy grail of running injury prevention?

That’s perhaps a step too far!

Whilst a stronger butt reduced the risk of Runners Knee in this group, there is nothing to say that it could reduce the risk of other common running injuries, such as Shin Splints (Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome).

We also know that progressing too quickly increases our risk of Runners Knee and this study did not control for how quickly any runner reached their first 50km of running.

I do think it is important to stress that when it comes to running injury risk, we are talking about INCREASING or DECREASING risk, not removing it altogether.

Injury data amongst runners tells us that every time you lace up and head out to train, there is a risk that you MAY experience an injury.

It therefore makes sense to me to play the percentages and control the controllable. If you’re a new/novice runner, or if a recent injury (knee or otherwise) has forced you to have a significant lay off, progress slowly – try this free return to running plan – and spend some time each week in the gym, keeping your legs and core, and yes, especially your butt nice and strong.

Here’s an example of a simple glute strengthening workout you can try:

Glute Activation & Hip Mobility Routine

About The Author 

Brad is a Specialist Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist from Pure Sports Medicine in London, based in Canary Wharf. He completed his BSc in Physiotherapy at the University of Hertfordshire in 2006 and a subsequent MSc in Advanced Musculoskeletal Physiotherapy at the same university in 2011. He has experience in both the NHS and private sectors of health care alongside a career in various professional sports.

His clinical interest lies in the field of Biomechanics, Patellofemoral Pain (PFJP), Tendinopathy and other overload pathologies. Academically he is a PhD candidate at Queen Mary, University of London on the topic of hip strengthening and running re-education for PFJP.


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