Baby Got Back?

Baby got back? While this song may remind you of the 90’s, for runners a weak booty may be contributing to some common running injuries. Your butt muscles, also known as the gluteus maximus, medium, and minimus, keep the pelvis steady, propel us forward, and extend the hips during walking and running. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing in yoga pants, a functionally strong gluteal group decreases the risk of injury when running.

Previous studies have found that a relationship between altered hip kinematics due to decreased activation of gluteal muscles results in an increase in hip adduction and internal rotation while running. This change in gait mechanics is often associated with with knee pain, ITB syndrome, or patellofemoral pain.

A recent study in Australia looked at the neuromotor control of the gluteal muscle in runners with Achilles tendinopathy. The authors hypothesized that increased hip adduction and internal rotation due to decreased gluteal muscle activation, may also be associated with increased rear foot eversion based on the lower extremity kinematic chain.

The aim of their study was to compare timing of glute med and max activation in healthy male runners and those with symptomatic Achilles tendinopathy. Fourteen male runners with Achilles tendinopathy and 19 male runners with no lower extremity symptoms ran short distances while an EMG recorded glute med and glute max. The recordings were then analyzed for onset of muscle activity, offset of muscle activity and duration of muscle activity. The results of this study showed a delay in activation and shorter duration of activity in both glute med and max in the Achilles tendinopathy group compared to the control group.

Although the sample size of this study is small, it shows evidence that male runners with Achilles tendinopathy demonstrated altered neuromotor control of the glute medius and glute maximus. While not all runners with weak glutes will develop Achilles tendinopathy or knee pain, this is additional evidence that supports the importance of having strong glutes. Focusing on this muscle group should be a part of every runners’ weekly strength routine!

Lisbeth Hoyt, DPT

Smith, M. M., Honeywill, C., Wyndow, N., Crossley, K. M., & Creaby, M. W. (2014). Neuromotor Control of Gluteal Muscles in Runners with Achilles Tendinopathy. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise,46 (3), 594-599. doi:10.1249/mss.0000000000000133