We talk about the gluteal muscles a lot. Why? Because if you are walking or running and your glutes are not working, it isn’t pretty. And it doesn’t feel good either. Getting those muscles firing is sometimes a matter of paying attention and sometimes a matter of strengthening. Either way, without gluteal muscles working, your hip drops when you move. Watch the videos on the right to see what this looks like.
Excessive hip drop with each step causes a myriad of problems: As your hip drops, your knee caves in and your ankle collapses. Yikes. You could end up with IT band syndrome, knee pain, hip pain, lower back pain and more. Basically, if your glutes start firing correctly when you run or walk, your entire body will thank you.
We’ve shown you how to strengthen the gluteal muscles before – Clam Shmam. But new research dives deeper and gets more precise about which exercises activate which muscles. Spoiler alert – it’s not the clam. The workhorse muscles that stabilize the outside of the hip are anterior fibers of the gluteus medius and the mighty gluteus minimus. Using needle EMG, researchers were able to look precisely at which exercises worked best to stabilize the hip and pelvis. Maximal contractions happened with isometric exercises – that’s where the muscle fires, but no movement occurs. So that’s where you should start.
The following exercises activate the right muscles to keep your hips level as you move about your day, walking or running. They may look simple, but beware; your body knows how to cheat. Pay close attention to the instructions and watch yourself in the mirror. If that doesn’t work, ask your therapist for help.
Hip Hitch – This exercise helps you find the right muscles. You should feel the muscles at the outside of the hip of the leg you are standing on as you perform it. Hold it for a minute, if you can.
Dip Test – The Dip is a great way to activate the gluteal muscles with movement. You can also hold this pose for a minute, or do repeats with correct form to make it functional.
After you have these down, you can progress to dynamic exercises. They’ll help you learn to activate the appropriate muscles with the right timing as you go about your day.
Lastly, if you schedule a gait evaluation, your therapist can evaluate any other issues that contribute to hip drop, like tight ankles, lower back or hips. Our gait specialists will treat any problems and offer more specialized guidance on which exercises to do and how to do them correctly. You and your glutes will be off and running in no time.