If you learn nothing else from this post, at least take this with you: you MUST (and this is the #1 MUST) train your glutes and, furthermore, train them correctly!
How the glutes affect knee position and knee control:
When examining the influence the glutes have on knee position, we really want to focus the conversation on two specific muscles – the gluteus maximus (GMax) and the posterior fibers of the gluteus medius (GMed). These two muscles are responsible for hip extension, abduction, and external rotation. GMax attaches to the iliotibial band that runs down the the outside/lateral portion of your leg and then attaches to the tibia – thus having DIRECT control over tibial positioning.
The GMed attaches directly to the outside/lateral portion of the femur and, yes, you guessed it, has DIRECT control over the position of the femur. What you really need to know: both muscles are responsible for keeping your lower leg – esp. knee – right where it should be – in a strong and safe position during a vast array of movements.
Assessment – how to figure out if your ass is in trouble:
Here is a quick and easy way to test the functioning of your glutes. The movement we’ll use is called a Single Leg Hip Bridge.
To pass this test we need to satisfy two criteria:
1. Can you fully extend your hips so that your trunk, hips, and thigh are in a straight line?
2. Do you feel the bulk of the work being done in your rear-end? Or, does it feel like your lower back is doing the bulk of the work?
Be sure to test both sides to note any differences.
The Building Blocks of a Training Plan:
Regardless of if “your ass is in trouble” or not, you will want to work some specific activation exercises into your pre-training or pre-practice warm-up protocol. It’s this preventative opportunity where most athletes and coaches miss the boat. I’d venture to say it is widely understood that lower body strength training and plyometric movements should be staples in performance training programs. But, what about those deceptively simple motor control exercises that help fire-up the glutes in the first place? Where do they go and why?
For all athletes and everyone else on earth (we should all be concerned with joint health) – you should place motor control exercises as part of the warm-up before training or practice. The only real differences between populations exist in terms of overall volume. If you have identified that your glutes are not functioning properly, you will want to do significantly more volume than someone who has passed the SL Hip Bridge Assessment with flying colors (For example, 3 sets of 10 repetitions versus 1 set of 10 repetitions).
|Sagittal Plane||Frontal Plane||Transverse Plane|
|Double Leg Hip Bridge||Lateral Ankle Band Walk||Side-Lying Clams|
|Single Leg Hip Bridge||X-Band Walk||Supine Clams|
We also must address the movements that fall into the categories of Strength and Plyometrics for any knee health program. In this case these style movements can be classified as Posterior Chain exercises, and I’m going to cover those next week!
Closing Thought, The Glutes’ Most Important Roll: Deceleration
During virtually all athletic movements, the glutes will be involved. Think sprinting, throwing, jumping. But what about the other side of the coin? The slowing down required for changing direction and the absorption of force during landing? After all, this is when most knee injuries occur – the deceleration phase! Extra diligence should always be put into correct form and a controlled eccentric tempo. This is the opportunity to practice decelerating the position of the knee in a safe manner outside of actually being on a field, court, or track.