Too many recreational runners and even quite a few professional running athletes have non existent glutes both in strength and a functionality perspective.
Here are 2 main reasons for this:
The athlete has inhibited glutes
With this reason the gluteus are in constant shutdown mode. They just don’t contract in daily life. A classic example is prolonged sitting. What happens here is when your sitting in a chair your gluteus are stretched and inactive.
The athlete has overshadowed glutes
Overshadowed glutes do not fire correctly and are no where near as strong as the other lower body muscles- like the quads.
The issue here is the body will use other muscles to do what the butt should be actually doing and this will cause inefficient performance and some form of pain/injury over time.
No matter if you are running, lifting or jumping the body uses a variety of muscle groups, but it will always utilise the strongest of those groups.
So, assuming your glutes fall into either of the above reasons, what can you do to help strengthen your butt to improve your running?
Firstly you need to start with simple isolation exercises that serve to reactivate the wiring between your brain and the glutes.
See below for an example
The Glute Bridge- Lie on your back with feet shoulder width apart. Raise hips in a straight line between shoulders and knees. Squeeze through your glutes making sure you try not to engage the hamstrings. Complete 10-15 reps. To isolate the glute even more you can also do this with a single leg variation. Just cross one leg over the opposite thigh and lift.
Once the re-wiring between the brain and your glutes has improved, you can move into more functional exercises that integrate glute activation and strength with other running based muscles.
See below for an example of one of my favourite functional butt exercises.
The Hot Salsa Lunge- Start standing with a light weight at your chest. Step forward with the right leg. Land on heel then forefoot. Keep knee in line with the toes. Lower and fall slightly forward by flexing knee and hip of the right leg until knee of left leg is almost in contact with the floor. Simultaneously extend weight down towards the right foot. Pause for half a second, then push down into the right foot extending the leg so the hips are slightly forward, the knee almost locked and the GLUTES ENGAGED and the weight is above the head arms extended. Hold for another half a second before dropping the weight to the chest and stepping forward with now the raised left leg and repeating the process.
Complete 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps on each leg. Use a light weigh or medicine ball. 2-4kg.
Okay, so your glutes are starting to fire and are becoming stronger, but other muscles have overshadowed the gluteus for a long time and are tight. Ideally you want to stretch out these muscles too.
See below for example of a very effective quad stretch.
The Couch Stretch-Start on all fours with your feet against the wall. Raise one leg so the shin and foot lie flat against the wall, then step the other leg forward with foot beneath you. Gently push the hip with the leg on the wall forward and relax your back, opening up the entire anterior muscle chain. Hold for around 30-45 sec.
The above 3 examples are a great start for reviving your butt muscle, improving your running efficiency and to reduce the risk of injury. Try and Incorporate them at your next strength training session.
Exercise video links: