In post one of this series, I pointed out that glute activation and hip drive are the keys to getting to the next level of running performance. If you have been running long enough to hit a plateau, however, you might be wondering, “How have I managed to avoid using my glutes all of this time?” Good question. You have used your glutes at least a little, but most runners do not use them as the powerful motor that they were intended to be.
Your glutes are the muscles that form that spot that you sit on… your backside, bum, or ass. When activated, they straighten out the angle formed by your upper body and lower body. When most people think about glute strength, they think squats and dead-lifts. These are the big compound exercises that have the potential to build your glutes. The problem is that too many people use nearby muscles, the hamstrings and lower back, to compensate for weak glutes. Hence, even if you squat and dead-lift frequently, you may still have under-active and weak glutes.
Activate Your Glutes
In order to avoid this compensation and really decide whether or not we have been activating our glutes, we use isolation exercises. The go-to exercises for isolating the glutes are the the glute bridge, the hip thrust, and a specific variation of the single leg squat.
I will let this video do most of the talking for me about glute bridges and hip thrusts. I will just add this: when I first started this process, I kept one hand on my hamstring while I did one-leg glute bridges. I made sure that my hamstring stayed relaxed, doing little or no work. This ensured that I really was activating and building my glutes!
Build Your Glutes with Single-Leg Squats
After you have been doing glute bridges for a while, it is probably safe to move on to the single-leg squat. The key here again is isolation. There are many variation of the single-leg squat. You must choose one that you know isolates the glute rather than allowing the hamstring to do most of the work! Here is one good variation designed for that purpose:
What About Squats and Dead-lifts?
Squats and dead-lifts will always be the main exercises for leg strength, including the glutes. Return to these after you have become strong at glute bridges, hip thrusts, and this version of the single-leg squat.
In post 3 of this series on Next Level Running, I will address:
- How to coordinate your muscles to create hip drive
- Full and proper running form
In post 4 of this series on Next Level Running, I will address:
- A full range of strength training exercises to enhance your health and running performance
- How to decide which exercises to do and how much to do
“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!” — P. Mark Taylor