The gluteal muscle group is comprised of the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus, and is a very powerful muscle group of the human body, controlling many of the major movements of the hip. The gluteus medius (GM) serves to maintain pelvic stability, however weakness or inactivity of this muscle can produce harmful effects. This article will take you through some important information about the GM, and how to keep yours strong and functional.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF THE GM?
Among other things, the GM serves to maintain pelvic alignment during single-leg activities (jumping and landing, kicking etc.). When you consider that over 50% of the gait cycle is spent on one leg, which can be increased by over a further 30% during running, it is easy to appreciate the importance of this muscle in a healthy, functioning body.
A weak GM can result in what is called, 'Trendelenburg Sign', essentially the hip dropping down during stance phase of the gait cycle. This hip drop sounds relatively innocent, but remember that the human body, although separated into different muscle groups, functions as a chain. Although the GM seems like a relatively small muscle in isolation, a "chink" in this part of the chain can have significant effects on the rest of the body. Repeated misalignment of the pelvis during gait can lead to other problems in the lower body, such as spinal, knee and ankle misalignment. This not only increases risk of injury from overuse (e.g. tendinopathy) or incorrect landing (e.g. ACL), but can also decrease the body's ability to generate power during general and sporting activity.
HOW CAN I STRENGTHEN MY GM?
The GM can be developed through many single-leg exercises within a gym program. It is important to ensure that your GMs are strong and active, to avoid the potential consequences described above. Several examples are described below:
Hip drops. Stand on one leg. Drop the hip of the non-supporting leg down, then straighten the hips, driving the movement from the hip of the supporting leg.
Crab steps. Tie a resistance band around your knees. Stick your tail out and bend your knees (in a "mini-squat" fashion), stay low, and step out to the side.
TRX lunge. Holding onto the TRX, keeping the lower leg of your supporting leg still, sit back into a lunge, maintaining an even alignment of your hips. Push through your heels and return to the start position.
Bulgarian lunge. Place one foot behind you on a higher surface, like a step, and the other foot on the ground. Hold a weight in the opposite hand to the supporting leg to offset your weight distribution (this will make your GM work harder to stabilise your hips). Keeping your lower leg still, drop down into a lunge, and push back up with your weight through your heels.
TIPS TO REMEMBER
The GM is an important player in the stability and alignment of the pelvis during single-leg movement
Over 50% of the gait cycle is spent on one leg, which can be increased by 30% or more during running
Weakness or inactivity of the GM can lead to injuries of the lower back, hip, knee or ankle
Exercises such as hip drops, crab steps, TRX lunge and Bulgarian lunge can help develop and activate the GM