Apr 112010

There are several strength and conditioning coaches and trainers who prescribe isolated glute max muscle “activation” and/or strengthening work.  These are exercises such as glute bridges, 1-leg glute bridges, quadruped hip extensions, and others where the emphasis is on the quality of the muscle contraction.  There are also several coaches and trainers who think that activation exercises are a waste of time and think that this concept is just a fad.  What I have found is that they may think that if their athletes are doing exercises such as squats, lunges, single leg squats, split squats, etc, then they are strengthening their glutes and the activation exercises are unnecessary.  I am one who does prescribe glute activation exercises.  We will do glute max isolation exercises on a daily basis with our players.

First, I think it is imperative to note that my job is to help keep the best players in the lineup on a nightly basis.  I understand that injuries such as fractures, concussions, and lacerations are beyond my control.  However, I am on the cautious side when it comes to soft tissue injuries.  We will do everything that we possibly can to help prevent injuries from happening- even with healthy athletes.

I was first introduced to the Prone Hip Extension Test by Al Vermeil at a seminar we hosted at Boston College back in 2001.  A few years later, I was able to attend a course on the Janda Method.  That’s when I learned how to administer the test properly.  This test has helped us identify athletes who don’t use their Gluteus Max’s when completing hip extension movement.  In a proper sequence of muscle activation, the hamstrings would fire first, glute max second, opposite side lumbar extensors third, same side lumber extensors fourth, opposite thoracolumbar extensors fifth, and same side thoracolumbar extensors sixth.  Several times, the gluteus maximus may not turn on at all.  Sometimes, we will see a difference in right vs. left side function.  In my opinion; this is a recipe for disaster.  Players who are continually going out and performing in their sport with this kind of pattern have a good chance of getting hurt.  Lower backs, hip flexors, and groins, can be affected by this.  Think about it, a player who can’t fire his glute max in order to help produce a significant amount of hip extension is going to find a way to do it without them.  Hamstrings, and lower back are the likely candidates.  These muscles may over work and strain.  I would also be worried about the athletes who are doing squats, lunges, single leg squats, and split squats, with this weakness too.  They are figuring out a way to do those exercises without their glute max.

Share this post!

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • RSS
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Bookmarks
  • del.icio.us
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • Posterous
  • Technorati
  • Yahoo! Buzz

  8 Responses to “Do Your Glutes Work?”

  1. Bang on Sean.

    As someone who sees tons of glutes on a daily basis :) in my clinic, I’m on the same train with respect to “activation”. Far too often hockey pucks continue through improper hip extension patterns in their skating strides as a result of under-active glute-complexes.

    These are the same individuals who sustain low back injuries due to such high shearing forces in their lumbar spines. For some, the glutes are weak and for others they’re simply inhibited/neurologically – asleep. Its our job to figure out what’s actually going on.

    To take this one step further, it would also be wise to assess the strength/neurological status of the glutes POST-activity. That is, after the game/practice and not just in a “fresh” state.

    Great post!

  2. Sean,

    Great post and fantastic assessment.

    Far too many of the hockey players I work with tend to have glute funtion issues, typically only on one side. I too am a strong believer in activation exercises. I tend to prescribe them prior to the execution of squats, much like a series of scapular exercises prior to any upper body exercises and have found that athletes are able to execute squats more effectively and with greater force/load after the activation exercises.

    • Great stuff Brad and a great analogy. Do you just do them prior to squats? Thanks for reading and giving feedback!

  3. If someone has a glute that is weak/inhibited/not firing, that they should do glute bridges often during the day to continually remind the glutes to fire and fire correctly?

    • Ideally, yes. Probably not practical for most people.
      We will do glute activation exercises in conjunction with hip flexor stretching on a daily basis with our athletes. There are times when I tell an athlete to do them at home as well.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.