From our own Physiotherapist


by Lady Emma Lyon-Wilson BA, BSc (Phys)

The gluteals are a group of muscles that make up the bum area, called the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. In anatomical terms the gluteus maximus is a hip extensor muscle (pulling the leg back) and the medius and minimus are hip abductor muscles (pulling the leg up to the side).
However, for the purposes of injury prevention and improving stability, the function of the gluteals is to stabilise the pelvis and trunk and not to move the legs.  Weak gluteal muscles have a proven link to lower back pain.

Exercises for common gluteas maximus dysfunction
One of the most common problems with the gluteal muscles is that they are not strong enough to do their job properly when we bend forwards and then come back up to standing. Instead, the back muscles step in to compensate and we end up with a muscle imbalance and a greater chance of injury.
Two exercises to improve the gluteus maximus's ability to support the spine in bending forwards and back up are the 'Bridge' and the 'Wood Chop'.

The Bridge
This is a static exercise where the gluteus maximus must work to support the back. Proper technique is essential if you are to retrain the right muscles to do their job again.

Level 1
Lie on your back with knees bent. Draw in the lower abdominals and curl the bum off the floor, lifting the hips until the knees, hips and chest are in line.
Hold this position, purposefully squeezing the glutes (bottom)  to support the bridge position. Start with 10 x 10 seconds, building up to 2 x 60 seconds.
Keep the pelvis level and the lower abdominals drawn in. If you feel a strong contraction in the hamstrings or you feel  the lower back is straining, then you are not using your glutes strongly enough. Focus on them to ensure they do the work.

Level 2
Same as above, but once the bridge is achieved lift one knee up in the air and support the bridge on one leg only. Hold for a count of two and then swap sides. Maintain for 60 seconds. Build up to 3 minutes.
Again, ensure the pelvis remains level and the lower abdominals drawn in. If you feel a strong contraction in the hamstrings then you are not using your glutes enough.

The Wood Chop
This is a dynamic (moving) exercise where the gluteals must work to bring  the trunk back from a flexed position.

Level 1
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Stand up tall. You can hold a weight in two hands above your head (5kg men, 3kg women).
As if you are wielding an axe to chop wood, bend from the waist and bring the weight down between your legs in a controlled manner. Do not bend your knees any further as you bend forward. At the bottom, draw in your abdominals and squeeze your glutes for support before returning to the start position. When you return upright, ensure it is with the correct sequence, extending your lower back first, then bringing your shoulders up and finally lifting the weight above your head.
Begin with 2-3 sets of 10 reps building up to 20 reps.

Level 2
Same as above, but on one leg. You may want to start this without a weight. Make sure you are controlled and balanced on one leg before you try this one as it requires a lot of core stability and gluteal strength to do it properly and in alignment.

Have a go at these and then I will introduce 2 exercises that look at strengthening the gluteus medius and minimus. 


Raise your game-increase your strength, fitness and endurance by teaching your muscles to switch speed with ease. Try these simple workouts once a week and you will notice the difference.
1.      Speed Endurance
Running short distances at a fast pace with a short recovery gets your body used to working hard and builds on your endurance.
3x200m sprints with 30 second recoveries.
Rest for 5 minutes and then repeat. Aim for 3 sets.
2.      Explosive power
Otherwise known as plyometrics. The muscles you need to sprint, jump and kick are different from the ones you use for running at a steady pace. These are the muscles that help you to change pace and direction quickly.
Jump explosively on to knee high box, your heels coming up to your bottom. Land on the box on the balls of your feet.
Jump off backwards, powering into the air and landing with straight legs and soft knees.
Do 3x15 with 2 minute recovery in between.

Balance is a key part of your body’s equilibrium. Without a good level of stability, otherwise known as proprioception, your body is at greater risk of injury. Improving your balance is improving the foundations of injury free exercise as well as activities of day to day life. Just walking requires balance as every step requires you to alternate your weight from one leg to the other in a forward motion-at approximately 1700 steps per mile. Improving your balance is easy to do and hugely rewarding.
Here is a test to see how good your balance is. All you need is a flat surface, running shoes and a stop watch.
With your trainers on, your right leg standing straight knee ever so slightly bent and your left knee about 90 degrees bent from the floor, start your stop watch. If you get up to 60 seconds without your foot or knee twitching or either arms or shoulders flinching to counter balance you then you have done well. Now change legs and test the other side.
Next take your shoes off and retest-are the results different?
Any challenge to your balance will help to improve it. You can simply stand on one leg-when you are cleaning your teeth, boiling the kettle, talking on the phone. You can then make this harder by doing slow controlled knee dips maintaining good balance. Or stand on a pillow. Or even shut your eyes, but make sure you are clear of any dangerous items or sharp corners!

If you do this consistently and retest your baseline balance every few weeks you will notice a definite improvement in your balance and will be improving your chances of injury free exercise.

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