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