| Article written on June 24th, 2016 at 4:21pm | Follow Garrett on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram |
The gluteals are some seriously important muscles in the posterior/lateral hip. Not only do they function to provide stability in the frontal plane during single leg stance, but the gluteus maximus is the main contributor to hip extension and propelling the body forward in gait and running (see left leg below on the push-off).
Just below the gluteals is the hamstring muscle group. During hip extension the hamstrings function as synergists, which mean they assist the gluteals to create movement. Assist is the key word, as the gluteals provide the biggest impact with some hamstring assistance.
However, on a daily basis I evaluate people with varying degrees of gluteal inhibition. Don’t confuse this with gluteal weakness as it’s more of a neuromuscular limitation than an actual muscular weakness. In a way, this is actually a good thing since we can provide the appropriate stimulus which will restore the connection. Weakness in a muscle can take weeks or even months to improve.
When gluteal inhibition is present, the risk of injury at the back and lower extremity rises. Not to mention higher levels of stress through the hamstring. As mentioned above, gluteal inhibition will lead to more reliance on the hamstring group. Unfortunately, the hamstrings are not the best back-up which leads to the development of muscular tension. This tension can lead to chronic tightness, tendonopathy, and strains.
The first step is to self-assess gluteal function and determine if inhibition is present. You can do so by performing the single leg hip bridge hold. In the following video, I demonstrate how to properly perform this self-assessment. Click the video below to learn more…
Now that you have completed the self-assessment, did you notice an inability to extend the hips, difficulty keeping the pelvis level, or cramping in the hamstrings? If so, implementing a strategy to improve gluteal inhibition is key.
There are a myriad of activation exercises that can be used to restore function and success often differs between people. But, one in particular always rises above the others and has been the best strategy for my clients. Again, it’s focus is neuromuscular in nature and not to strengthen this muscle group.
In the following video, you’ll find an activation exercise that incorporates shoulder internal rotation to stimulate the back functional fascial line in which the latissimus dorsi and gluteus maximus are part of. This firing elsewhere along the fascial line seems to improve activation of the gluteals in subsequent movements and when re-tested. I was fortunate enough to learn this from Dr. Craig Liebenson at a Perform Better Summit several years ago.
Once the connection is improved/restored, exercises to further enhance function should be completed. Two of my favorites that commonly yield success are the forearm hip extension and cook hip lift. These need to be done before further gluteal strengthening can be carried out.
After reading this article I hope you have a deeper insight on how your body is functioning. Also, the knowledge to determine the difference between gluteal inhibition and weakness. If inhibition is the true underlying issue, the above mentioned interventions will yield at least some success to complete resolution. But on the other hand, a weak gluteus maximus will remain weak despite working on activation until weeks of strengthening are completed.
If you live in the Nashville area and want to learn more about neuromuscular activation relating to the hips, please consider attending my upcoming seminar on Saturday, March 25th. Chris Wolfe and myself will be hosting, ‘Take Control Through Balance & Coordination.’ This seminar will touch on the basics behind hip activation with strategies to apply immediately within your program to see results. It will also serve as a great self-assessment for you to gain better insight on how your body functions.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART