This “design flaw” in humans must be specifically targeted and strengthened; only certain movements will do the trick.
The gluteus medius is the #1 hidden factor in most injuries. It sits under the gluteus maximus and attaches at the top of the pelvic rim.
We are pervasively weak in this middle sized glute muscle (we all know the glute max; there’s also a gluteus minimus). The glute max overcompensates and this medius – which is a critical stabilizer – is left under developed. A strong and fully functioning gluteus medius muscle will allow the hips and butt to stay level when one leg is raised while the other stays planted on the ground (for runners and cyclists – but anyone, really – this is key). When the muscle is weak, the pelvis may drop on one side when a leg is raised; this is due to the pelvis not having enough lower support, which is where the gluteus medius muscle comes in.
SO MANY ISSUES
Weak glute med muscles can result in many issues and injuries, most causing severe pain in the hips, low back and especially the knees. But even these issues arise from this one weakness: SI joint disfunction, IT band syndrome, hamstring tears, shin splints, poor balance, and on and on.
When functioning properly, the gluteus medius muscle will allow the hips/butt to remain level when one leg is raised and the other planted. It is an abductor muscle meaning it works to externally rotate the leg away from the midline of the body.
NOT THE BEES KNEES
A primary symptom from this weakness is something called “valgus knee” also known as knock knees where knees collapse into each other. Weak glute med cause an inward rotation at the top of the thigh bone which travels downstream to the knee, causing the knee to also collapse in an inward rotation. Left uncorrected, knee issues can worsen to problems with the meniscus, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) among other things. The problem can travel even further downstream to the feet and ankles.
LOW BACK DISTRESS
The muscles around the lumbar spine will have to work harder to make up for a poorly functioning glute med. A strong core helps keep the pelvis level and allows the hips and gluteus to operate independently of the low back.
As a key stabilizer, the glute med is CRITICAL for steady, strong balancing – in yoga, sports and life. Those who regularly train the gluteus medius (yes, it requires specific training) are amazed how much more effective they are in balancing, lateral rotation and optimized performance.
EXERCISES TO STRENGTHEN THE GLUTE MED
I’m sure you’ve seen people at the gym or elsewhere with the elastic band at the ankled dynamically stepping side to side. THAT’S GLUTE MED WORK. Yay. That’s good stuff. Here, I’m proposing another excellent way to also strengthen and that’s with isometric holds instead of dynamic movement – equally effective.
Do as often as possible. They may be hard at first, but build to 60 second holds for each one below.
Do in this order. Have a stop watch to time yourself. Don’t hold your breath. Keep these in your routine consistently.
- Stand with belt or band at upper thighs
- Bend knees – knees aligned over toes
- Butt drops down, low belly in for support
- Arms at side or at hips
- For up to 60 seconds (or build to that) try to BREAK THE STRAP – press outer thighs into strap consistently and actively
- Stand, pause and relax
“CHAIR” pose with lifted leg (no picture)
- Come back into same stance as per above with knees bent
- Apply pressure to try to break the strap or band
- Bring ALL weight into R foot and unweight or even lift L foot (off the ground straight out to side.
- Hold onto something if need to for balance
- Hold for up to 60 seconds – stay active and taut on strap
- Switch sides for 60 seconds second side
BRIDGE pose hips on ground
- Strap at upper thighs. Lie on back.
- Feet planted into ground, shoulders relaxed. Palms turned down.
- Again, try to break the strap with the legs – keep the effort consistent
- Hold for up to 60 seconds. Release and relax
BRIDGE pose hips lifted
- Exact pose as above only hips lifted.
- Hold for up to 60 seconds
- Drop hips and relax