Training the Glute Medius Muscle for Back/Knee pain & Lower Limb Stability
Do you have back pain? Knee pain? Well if you do, are you activating your gluteus medius muscle properly? Doctor of Physical Therapy Student Neil Guintu walks us through some exercises.
What is the Gluteus Medius?
The Gluteus Medius is one of the most important stabilizing muscles of the entire lower limb. It runs from the top of your pelvis and attaches to the femur (aka the long bone connecting the knee to the hip).
When activated, the Glut. Med. contracts/shortens it externally rotates the leg and pulls the pelvis down to prevent the other side from dropping. Whenever the Glut. Med. is not activated; the knee collapses into valgus (or inward) and starts to put more pulling stress on the inside of the knees. The longer this occurs, the more likely structures of the knee, such as the MCL, meniscus, and even the ACL, will get severely get injured.
When looking up the body, if the Glut. Med. is not activated; the opposite side of the pelvis will tend to drop. The longer this occurs, the more likely the lower back muscles will become overworked, sore, and hypertonic from trying to pull the pelvis back up. The Glut. Med. becomes very important during single leg stances or whenever a person is putting weight through one leg only. Such activities include running, taking a layup in basketball, bowling, or pitching in baseball.
This muscle often gets inhibited or lengthened out of its optimal range of contraction with prolonged sitting. That right, students, desk workers, or couch potatoes, sitting for long periods of time can specifically decrease the strength and endurance in this muscle and lead to back and knee pain. By training the Glut. Med., you prevent the unnecessary stresses on the knee and back and increase the balance and stability in your entire lower limb.
Exercises To Activate the Gluteus Medius:
Gluteus Medius Activation: Side-lying Abduction
Explanation: In side-lying abduction, you are on lying down on your side with the bottom knee bent to keep your pelvis from rolling forward or backward. You straighten your entire leg and externally rotate your leg in order to get the correct alignment of gluteus medius muscle fibers. You then bring your foot up towards the ceiling and back down in a controlled manner to work the gluteus medius concentrically and eccentrically.
Gluteus Medius Activation: Fire Hydrants
Explanation: This motion is called fire hydrants because you are essentially mimicking a dog peeing on a fire hydrant. You begin by getting onto your hands and knees. You then bring one bent knee out to the side at an angle. The use of a resistance band around your knees will make the gluteus medius activate more. Fire Hydrants force you to maintain core stability while you are moving your leg. In other words, you are activating your core musculature (transversus abdominis and multifidus muscles) while you are also activating your gluteus medius. Concomitant activation of the core and gluteus medius musculature is important because sports require stability in many planes.
Glutes Medius Activation: Side-Stepping
Explanation: In this motion, you begin in a slight squat by making sure to bend equally at both your knees and hips. You then take a step directly out toward the side in order to activate the gluteus medius on side of the leg that stays planted. Continue taking steps toward one side and evening it out by sidestepping back the opposite way. The use of the resistance band forces the gluteus medius to activate against the knee valgus/inward motion as you are taking a step. This motion is important for athletes looking to improve stability in lateral movement and cutting.
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