Though the quads are the major provider of braking and support during running, the glutes also play a crucial role in maintaining injury-free form and performance optimisation. Many runners strengthen the muscles on the front of their legs but forget about the glutes and hamstrings. The imbalance has been linked to knee pain and performance reduction, By modifying how you perform a squat, you can involve the glutes more and prepare better for the demands of running.
One of the most important roles of the gluteus medius during running is controlling how much the pelvis on the opposite side drops while you are on one leg. Research has linked pelvic drop with ITB syndrone and other lower leg injuries, showing that movement and control at pelvic level plays a greater part in what happens at foot level rather than vice-versa. Sort out what’s happening up top before worrying what’s going on at foot level.
Though the gluteus maximus is not used much at a low speed things change when you speed up. For distance runners, the gluteus maximus assists the hamstrings in driving the leg back; for sprinters it is the main provider of propulsion. The gluteus maximus also helps trunk control, stabilises the hip as the knee rises in front of you and decelerates the leg prior to landing.
Target muscles: Glue emphasis
Sets & reps: 3 sets of 12-15
Tempo: 3 seconds down, 1 second up
Frequency: Include in two strength sessions a week
How many repetitions? The strength gains desirable for distance running are brought about by using enough resistance to cause failure by 12-15 reps. Unless you work to failure you will not stress the body hard enough to get stronger. Choose your resistance band colour wisely and expect to change it as you get stronger. Weights can also be added for further resistance.
Experiencing pain? If you experience pain when doing squats, get your technique checked. There is not one optimum way everyone should be squatting, but when you start adding resistance, care should be taken to ensure the muscles and joints are exposed to load in a safe way.
Place a resistance band just above the knees tight enough so it stays by itself. For most bands the colour denotes the degree of tension. Use a tension that causes fatigue by 12 repetitions. As you get stronger move to a different colour band.
Open the legs to slightly wider than hip width apart and turn the feet outwards. Now stretch the band by rotating the thighs outwards, so that your knees are in line with your feet. In doing so, you should feel the glute muscles contract. Raise the arms to help counterbalance.
Keeping the knees rotated outwards and tension on the band, take three seconds to slowly squat downwards. The squat should initiate with you sticking your bottom out behind you, as if you were sitting down in a chair (to practise this, put a chair behind you).
Keeping your back straight, stand up making sure the knees stay facing outwards over the toes. This is important as for many runners the tendency is to let the knees turn inwards. The same tension should stay in the resistance band throughout the 12 repetitions.
How deep you can squat whilst maintaining good form will depend on a number of factors including ankle mobility and hip strength. Do not sacrifice form for depth. Remember, we are not all built exactly the same, so we won’t necessarily all move in the same way.
Mat Phillips is a Running Injury Specialist & Video Gait Analyst at StrideUK & Studio57clinic in Sussex. Follow Matt on Twitter: @sportinjurymatt.