Patients in the United States often struggle with different issues varying from low back pain, hip pain, knee pain, athletic performance issues, balance, and basic mobility. These problems rarely affect a singular person at one time, but can be linked to the same biomechanical cause—the behind. Derriere. Butt. Rear end. Glutes. Whatever you call it, it remains an important part of our overall function and well-being. It can be difficult to properly train the gluteals for strength and function without the help of a professional. Hip strength is also important in contributing to good knee and trunk control during dynamic tasks. This control helps to decrease the strain on the knee and back, avoiding overuse and compensation injuries.
Other cultures don’t have as many issues with hip joint integration and gluteal strength. What has been referred to as the “Asian squat” is a posture that those in Asia and other nations assume for many reasons. The posture consistently trains the glutes and hips to perform a deep squat, and remain in that position for extended periods of time. Americans do not spend much, if any, time in this position, and thus do not have the benefit of provided functionally.
Strength in the hips is key in determining athleticism including leaping ability and speed. Schache, Brown, & Pandy (2015) found that hip extensors and flexors were the most important contributors to running propulsion during the stance phase of sprinting. This means that strength in the glutes is the key to unlocking higher top end speeds and performance.
Glute strength and stability are determinants for balance in all populations that are particularly affected in the older age ranges. Chairs are developed to help people lift from sitting onto their feet rather than training the ability to do it on their own. Falls and decreased mobility in some parts of our population lead to vast amounts of health care costs each year in emergency care, rehabilitation, and other services. If similar age ranges in other countries can achieve strong function and balance ability, then we should encourage our friends and family who struggle to improve their balance and function. Below are some basic ways to improve glute strength that are safe for all ages and levels of fitness including bridging and clamshell exercises.
Our gluteals are capable of being the strongest muscle in our body, meaning that, if properly trained, they are able to have an effect on nearly all total body movements and activities. The ability of one muscle group to so widely bolster athletic performance, basic balance and function, reduce our chances for back and knee pain, and hold up our belts, is undeniably crucial. Poor glute health, when combined with other risk factors, can lead to decreased function, falling, and underutilized athleticism. Young athletes are some of the most vulnerable to these problems during growth years and can also experience some of the biggest gains, from training to enhance athletic ability.
Speak with your physical therapy expert if you have noticed any of these symptoms, or you would like to learn more about exercises to strengthen your gluteals. We can help you to determine what you need to be your best self.
Schache, A. G., Brown, N. A., & Pandy, M. G. (2015). Modulation of work and power by the human lower-limb joints with increasing steady-state locomotion speed. Journal of Experimental Biology, 218(15), 2472-2481. doi:10.1242/jeb.119156
Our Chandler physical therapy clinic provides care to patients, young and old, with a variety of different injuries. We strive to serve patients with the best, most advanced care possible by embracing a hands-on and individualized approach to therapy. To schedule a free assessment with one of our physical therapists, you can go online here today. For more information from Chandler physical therapy, visit our blog!
Tyler Carlson has a Doctorate in Physical Therapy and was a former multi-sport athlete himself. He knows the pressures and risks young athletes face. He is here today to talk about recognizing and diagnosing injuries in children and teens that are passionate about sports.
Today, youth athletics are a big part of our nation’s culture. It is common for boys and girls to be involved in full-time sports during childhood, and even specialize in a singular sport from a very young age. Youth sports have become highly competitive, meaning playing time and exposure to next-level coaches can become deciding factors for success.
It is no surprise that parents put a premium on the development of their child in any given sport. Pressure is ramped up further by the possibility of monetary rewards, such as athletic scholarships, or even advancement to professional ranks and endorsements. This long-term view can lead to neglecting a child’s daily needs for normal human growth and development.
Overuse and biomechanical issues are prevalent in the adolescent population. Some studies show that up to 50% of overuse injuries seen in clinics are from adolescent athletes (3). Without knowledge of how a body is supposed to move, it is easy to miss warning signs. A common type of knee pain, PFP (patellofemoral pain) is seen in adolescents at a rate of approximately 15 to 20% (1). Early single sport specialization, especially in women, has been shown to cause an increased incidence in knee pain. It is also related to pain in shoulders, hips, and elbows, depending on the sport of choice.
Parents, coaches, and even some health care practitioners can easily misinterpret complaints of pain from a developing athlete as growing pains. Joint pain is generally seen as normal through the process of skeletal growth and maturation, and therefore no treatment is provided. It is important to look at the movements of an athlete, or any growing child, in order to determine the true cause of pain.
Biomechanics, or the way our body physically moves through space, is an important factor in how we deal with physical stresses. These stresses can include everything an athlete does in any athletic event. If we have good biomechanics, then our joints, muscles, ligaments, and tendons all properly distribute the tension or impact from any movement. If we have unstable biomechanics, then one or more parts of the body will absorb more than its fair share of stress. Even if the stress is minimal or moderate, it will cause an overuse injury over time. This injury may appear as joint pain. If the stress in any one event is severe, it can lead to a traumatic injury like joint dislocation or muscle, tendon, and ligament tearing.
These injuries can cause children and teens to be discouraged from sports and even exercise in general. This can be described as burnout, which affects young athletes through chronic muscle or joint pain, personality changes, elevated resting heart rate, decreased sports performance, fatigue, lack of enthusiasm for sports, and other negative effects (2). For a talented athlete, losing the will to compete can stop development and affect relationships with competitive parents and coaches.
It is important for athletes to be evaluated for all pain that affects them, whether during sports or not. Sports specialization is becoming more and more common, but it might not be the best idea for the complete development of adolescents to adult athletes. All competitors are at risk for overuse injuries, but if identified early on, they can be addressed to prevent pain and improve performance. Physical therapists are highly specialized in the analysis of human movement. Athletes will be best served if they are evaluated to determine if they need treatment, or training to avoid long-term injury and maximize performance potential. Their overall health and well being is what we focus on at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy.
- Hall R, Barber Foss K, Hewett T, Myer G. Sport Specialization’s Association With an Increased Risk of Developing Anterior Knee Pain in Adolescent Female Athletes. Journal of Sport Rehabilitation. 2015;24(1):31-35. doi:10.1123/jsr.2013-0101.
- Brenner J. Overuse Injuries, Overtraining, and Burnout in Child and Adolescent Athletes.PEDIATRICS. 2007;119(6):1242-1245. doi:10.1542/peds.2007-0887.
- Valovich McLeod T, Decoster L, Loud K et al. National Athletic Trainers’ Association Position Statement: Prevention of Pediatric Overuse Injuries. Journal of Athletic Training. 2011;46(2):206-220. doi:10.4085/1062-6050-46.2.206.