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.