Last time we brought to light the issue of “dead-butt syndrome”. Most of you likely excelled at the bridge test and had no difficulty or pain. For the more advanced patient, a more sensitive way to test for gluteal strength is to perform a squat. At first, everyone may say that squatting is easy and therefore their glutes are fine. Now, to add a bit of a twist, attempt to perform a squat with a coffee table or chair in front of your knees. Renowned Physical Therapist Jay Dicharry refers to this as “chair of death” squats due to the increased difficulty. By placing an object like a chair in front of your knees, it causes your form to change and place more strain on your quads and gluteal muscles while removing strain from your low back.
Enough about testing, lets discuss treatment! There could be any number of reasons why your gluteal muscles may not be working including tight hip flexors, nerve tension or even a restricted hip capsule. While in the clinic we may focus on releasing tightness in soft tissues, for the purposes of this blog post, lets talk about exercise. Here are 3 simple exercises to perform to improve the neuromuscular control of your gluteal muscles:
1. Simply walking backward on a treadmill. Be the first at your gym to look ridiculous. By walking backward, you are forcing your hips to extend and therefore causing greater contraction of your gluteal muscles. While this exercise may not put much strain on your gluteal muscles due to the lack of resistance, it will certainly build neuromuscular junctions due to the high repetition of having to walk backward for several minutes.
2. Deep Squats. (as pictured above) I once attended a medical conference where one of the presenters stressed the importance in your ability to perform deep squats. In an effort to maintain efficient strength in this presenter’s children, he had his kids eat breakfast every day while in the deep squat position. I’m not saying that we all need to go to that extreme but simply getting up out of a chair with appropriate form or performing 12 squats in your kitchen while your coffee is brewing could be a great start.
3. Take the stairs! I know it seems simple but how often do you avoid the stairs and elect to take the elevator or escalator. Stairs are a simple way to gain improved gluteal strength. For those of you who are more athletically gifted and therefore bored with stairs, we could call them vertical single leg lunges. Still not challenged? Take 2 or three at a time.
It is essential for people of all walks of life to maintain healthy working gluteal muscles. Not only can healthy glutes provide power but (no pun intended) they can also prevent back pain. New research is beginning to highlight the importance of gluteal strength to prevent knee pain. This is especially important for you runners reading this blog.