You know that feeling when you’ve manage to do 4 pole vault sessions in 2 weeks? No?! How about if I said, even though I’ve continued to describe myself as a pole vaulter, I’ve not managed this meagre feat in over 16 months, it puts a certain warm glow inside, and a big ol’ smile on my face. Don’t mean to brag, but I can also still walk around without my standard sore achilles based swagger.
So with my slightly humble brag out the way, and absolutely nothing else of interest occurring within my athletic lifestyle (a November full of coffee, train, eat, sleep, repeat awaits), these are going to be some pretty exciting posts, onto the glutes again….
So last time we discussed your glutes, what they were, how they work and how to theoretically keep them working properly. If you didn’t read it, I suggest starting there. I mentioned how keeping glute med functioning can avoid a lot of injuries, in fact by keeping glute med functioning, it prevents the contralateral quadratus lumborum muscle tightening up, which would cause excessive compression of the lumbar vertebrae and limit the invervation of the lower limbs thus reducing total power output, not ideal when you’re trying to increase performance. Theres multiple other possible injury mechanisms related to glute med that I could go into, but I did promise to talk about how to improve glute max’s function.
Its difficult to talk about glute function without mentioning “The Glute Guy” Brett Contreras, this article on T-nation gives a pretty good grounding in a lot of his work, and a lot of his exercises are really awesome. I’m with him a lot of the way, mainly on the importance of glute training, the importance of keeping length in the hip flexors to prevent the glute being inhibited in their actions and of course the importance of building glute max strength into hip extension, this means past vertical. His barbell hip thrust exercise (well, its not his invention, but he definitely popularised it) would probably be a pretty strong addition to any sports persons weights program, get the loading a volume right and you will have “glutes for days”. Where we diverge is when he says that Usain Bolt would run faster if he added this exercise to his weights program.
Now this is not meant as insult to Mr Contreras, the guy is far superior in knowledge than I, but I do know that you have to have a pretty crappy training programme if you can add one exercise to it and see a discernible improvement. And I’m pretty sure Usain Bolt is in a pretty solid training programme. Most sprint-based training programs will have some work where the hip is worked in hip extension, but for me the key to glute function in sprinting is not from adding more weight room exercises, or loading these exercises, its how you transfer that innervation from the weight room to the track.
The first way I think this can be achieved is through intention. Understanding the importance of glute recruitment is the first stage, but having the intention to utilise the glutes in every situation and exercise can go a long way. A focus on loading the glutes when squatting or olympic lifting, focussing on the glutes completing hip extension when multi-throwing, using the glutes to catch and control posture when multi-jumping but most importantly being aware of their use during sprinting.
As previously discussed, the glutes have a tendency to “turn off”. Constant sitting in our modern culture leads to tightening hip flexors causes major inhibition of the glutes, which without intention to use glutes will result in quad-dominant style running. Step 1, keep your glutes firing by trying to use your glutes, duh!
Maintain Hip extension range
Losing hip extension will just mean you can’t use your glutes. You may gain hip extension range through intentionally recruiting the glutes but some MobilityWOD style hip extension work is surely going to help too.
Flat foot running drills
I want to do a big blog post on flat footed contacts for running drills, but for now I’ll just say the basics. At lower running speeds, forces tend to be absorbed more distally, this means fore-foot contacts at running drill speeds, most of the force is absorbed at the ankle. By moving to flat foot contacts, the calf is removed from the equation and allows a focus on glute recruitment and moving from the hip. Has this then come full circle to intention? But enabled by a slight change in the exercise, either way, this works great in getting athletes to learn to recruit the glute, and theres a really good cross-over from this relatively specific exercise to actual running, if performed with the right intention
So thats it for this week, I’ve already mentioned about 50 other blog posts I’m “going” to write, but I want to follow this up with at least one more on the hip region, talking about my favourite hacks for the glutes. For now, have fun, I’m off to massage my calves again.