The most important muscle in runners and how to strengthen it?

What do you think is the most important muscle when it comes to running?

“The core muscles” I hear you say? Even though your core muscles have received a lot of attention in the media, they aren’t the most important muscle.

Think lower

Hamstrings- No. Think higher- Gluteals!? Yes! The most important group of muscles in runners are……(drumroll) The Gluteal muscles. Running guru and Harvard professor Daniel Lieberman even suggests that the gluteal muscles have enlarged in humans over thousands of years to help humans with their running capabilities.

There are 3 Gluteal muscles: Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus (see pic below). In running, the Gluteus Maximus and Medius tend to be the most important

Our gluteal muscles are responsible for many tasks during running. They:
1) Control flexion of the trunk on the stance leg
2) Decelerate the swing leg
3) Help extend our hip as we push back
4) Propel us forward
5) Keep our pelvis aligned
6) Prevent our hip from rotating inward

In addition weakness of the gluteal muscles have been linked to all sorts of injuries (Achilles Tendinosis, Runners knee, ITB problems)

In short- its time you start to strengthen your Gluts.

Below are 5 great exercises for strengthening The Gluteus Maximus muscle (Part 2 of the article-coming soon- will focus on the Gluteus Medius muscle)

1) Bridge with heels

How to perform this exercise:
Lie on your back with your knees and hips in alignment. Dig your heels into the ground. Push your back into the floor and roll up one vertebrae at a time. Make sure your pelvis is level. Slowly lower.

To make this exercise harder:
a) Add some hand weights and rest them on your hips
b) One leg bridge (make sure your pelvis is stable)


2) Step up

How to perform this exercise:
Put your leg on top of a stair. Lift your body weight with the leg (make sure your knee doesn’t rotate inwards). Slowly lower- tap your foot behind you and lift again

To make this exercise harder:
a) Use a higher stair
b) Add some hand weights


3) Wall squat

How to perform this exercise:
Slide yourself down the wall to 90 degrees. Squeeze your bottom- hold for 30s

How to make this exercise harder:
a) Hold for longer than 30s (if you dare)
b) Perform small pulses up and down


4) Single leg squat

How to perform this exercise
Put one leg in front of you. Squat down sticking your bottom out. Touch the chair- slowly rise

How to make this exercise harder:
a) This exercise is hard enough!
5) Lunge

How to perform this exercise
Lunge down- then lift the back leg up. Squeeze your bum on the standing leg

How to make this exercise harder:
a) Hold hand weights
b) Put a pita under your back leg

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