The hips and musculature around the hips are the most important muscle in the body. However, they are also the most ignored area in strength training, especially in runners.
The musculature around the hips is prominently the glutes. The glutes consist of three separate muscles. Gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, the gluteus maximus being the biggest of the three. The glutes contribute to many movements, including extension, abduction, internal rotation, and external rotation of the hip joint. The glutes provide a great source of power and play a critical role in keeping your body upright and moving your hips.
When you sit at a desk all day, your glutes can weaken and find it difficult to activate. Without adequate glute strength, a chain reaction may occur throughout the body, leading to potential injury. For example, a tilted pelvis. Also, the gluteus medius and maximus act as stabilisers for the hips and the pelvis, alongside the adductor muscles (Brevis, Longus and Magnus). You cannot effectively and efficiently resist trunk motion under load, speed or limb motion without the stabiliser, showing how important these muscles are as well as the more major muscles.
Having weak or tight glutes may lead to many injuries, examples of these are:
- Back pain – this is because the glutes contribute to the alignment and positioning of the pelvis and spine. When the glutes are tight, they can pull on the pelvis, creating pain in the pelvis and lower pain. When the glutes are weak, they do not support the lower back correctly, meaning other muscles have to compensate. This can cause degeneration, pinched nerves, or other damage. When muscle are overworked, this can lead to strained and torn muscles.
- Poor mobility – glutes are responsible for movement of the hip joint and upper thigh. If your glutes lack the strength for these movements, then again, other muscles compensate, causing degeneration and overuse injuries.
- Knee pain – instability of the pelvis and hip joint have an effect through the chain, therefore leading to impact of the knee. This means, instability in the pelvis = instability in the knee.
This is an area I would strongly recommend focus and attention for all athletes looking to improve, not just the injured ones. Basic glute and hip exercise include glute bridges, clams and squats. If you want to improve your hip/glute strength and stability (or any other muscle) visit a qualified sports therapist. They will be able to identify problem areas as well as weak areas and set you specific exercises to help you improve and reduce injury risk.