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Knee Pain

Glute Activation Exercises

Minute Read

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Posted 2 months ago

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Last updated: 29/11/2022

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by James McCormack

The knee joint is between the hip joint, and the foot and ankle joints, it is therefore affected by the strength, control, and stability of these joints. The muscles around these joints need to be strong and active to work efficiently to keep the knee stable. Here we will look specifically at the glute muscles around the hip and pelvis. There are three gluteal muscles: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. These three muscles have the actions of extension, external rotation, abduction, and adduction of the thigh. The movement of the thigh will affect the movement of the knee. If the thigh adducts (moves inwards), for example when lowering the body down a step, the knee will also move inwards and have more pressure in particular areas. Repeated stress in these areas can lead to injury.

The most common biomechanical issues for the knee are that the thigh adducts and internally rotates, putting more pressure on the inside of the knee, the meniscus, medial collateral ligament, and pes anserine tendons and bursa, and through the patellofemoral joint. Therefore, getting the glutes stronger and more active during activity can prevent this. Here are some exercises that will activate the glutes.

Related articles: Patellofemoral PainPatella Tracking DisorderMedial Meniscus TearMCL InjuryPes Anserine Bursitis

When To Do Glute Activation Exercises?

These types of activation exercises are a good way to prepare your body for upcoming activity. Stability and control through the hip is challenged most with single-leg exercises such as single-leg squats or step-ups and running. As well as with sports that require quick changes of direction when there will be a lot of pressure on one leg. Doing glute activation exercises before these exercises will ensure you are in the best position to control these movements and it can be helpful to prevent injury. 

Glute Bridge with Band

Lie on your back with your knees bend to about 90º and a resistance band around your lower thigh. Tilt your pelvis backwards and raise your pelvis off the floor, while consistently keeping pressure out against the band.

For activation, you can do 1 set of 5-10 repetitions, enough to feel the muscles working and warming but not to the point of fatigue.

This exercise works all 3 of the gluteal muscles. To lift the body up requires extension of the hip, predominantly from the gluteus maximus. To push outwards into the band is abduction and external rotation working the gluteus medius and minimus muscles.

Leg Lift – Abduction

Lie on your side with a band around your ankles. Bend your lower knee slightly for stability. Then raise your top leg above hip height, keeping your knee straight and leg just behind the line of your upper body.

For activation, you can do 1 set of 5-10 repetitions on each leg. Enough to feel the muscles working and warming but not to the point of fatigue.

This exercise works all 3 gluteal muscles but will work the gluteus medius and minimus most.

Clam – External Rotation

Lie on your side with a your knees and hips bent to about 20º. Raise your top leg above hip height, keeping your pelvis level and without rolling your upper body backwards. You can add a band around your lower thigh to make this a stronger exercise.

For activation, you can do 1 set of 5-10 repetitions on each leg. Enough to feel the muscles working and warming but not to the point of fatigue.

This exercise works all 3 gluteal muscles but will work the gluteus medius and minimus most.

Straight Leg Dead Lift

Stand with your feet about hip-width apart, with a slight bend in your knees and hold a weight in both hands. Slowly bow forwards, bending from your hips to lower the weight towards the floor. Then squeeze your buttocks and push your pelvis forward to extend your hips to return to standing.

For activation, you can do 1 set of 5-10 repetitions. Enough to feel the muscles working and warming but not to the point of fatigue.

This exercise works the gluteus maximus muscle predominantly. To lower the upper body the gluteus maximus slows flexion at the hip. To return the upper body up requires the glute max to extend the hip. There will be some help from the gluteus medius and minimus for stability.

Single Leg Balance

Stand on one leg and try to keep your balance. Adding a wobble pad, or standing on a cushion or mattress, will make this much more challenging.

For activation, you can do 1 set of 15-30 seconds on each leg. Enough to feel the muscles working and warming but not to the point of fatigue.

This exercise works all 3 gluteal muscles, predominantly the gluteus medius and minimus to keep your pelvis stable and therefore your upper body straight. Your gluteus maximus works to keep your body upright.

Physiotherapy with James McCormack

This is not medical advice. We recommend a consultation with a medical professional such as James McCormack. He offers Online Physiotherapy Appointments for £45.

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