Runner, Don’t Neglect Your Butt!

Have you recently trained your butt? Now, was that your main target of the workout?

We neglect our glutes far too much. Us runners often assume that our legs and lungs are the be-all-end-all, which leaves our buttocks completely forgotten about. Yet, think about this question: what pulls our legs back after we take a stride?

The glutes largely control hip and thigh movement. When I want to stand up, my glutes contract to straighten my legs with my body. Similarly, my butt aids me in climbing a nasty incline during a race, helping me take a stab at reaching a new personal best. I wouldn’t have fared so well on my hilly races if it wasn’t for my butt.

Remember Your Glutes

First, what are your glutes?

The gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus make up your gluteal muscles. The gluteus maximus is the largest of the three, and often the one we think about when we imagine our butt. The gluteal medius is found near the hips on either side of the body. These are smaller than the maximus, but larger than the minimus. Directly nder the medius is the gluteus minimus.

The gluteal muscles are in layers: the maximus is at the top, the medius is in the middle, and the minimus is underneath. One of the main reasons why we associate our butt with the gluteus maximus is because of this; the maximus is what we see the most.

What are the Gluteal Muscles’ Roles?

The purpose of the gluteal muscles is to rotate the hip joints, leading to leg movement and aiding balance. The glutes are important for a lot of actions you might want to take; cycling, climbing stairs, sitting up, walking, tilting, turning, and the list goes on.

The gluteus minimus and medius work together to prevent yourself from falling over on your left and right sides. Think of your obliques: these muscles also keep you from tilting over onto your left and right sides. These muscles are important because your hips are constantly shifting with each stride.

The gluteal (buttocks) muscles are so commonly left out of runners’ strength programs, I call them the forgotten core.” – Nikki Kimball, RunnersWorld.

When you think about the role of the medius and minimus, you can imagine why Kimball thinks that. These muscles prevent you from toppling over like a leaf in the wind. The core plays the exact same role.

The gluteus maximus plays a different role, but it is also incredibly important. What this layer does is tug on your thighs when contracting, pulling it back. If you are climbing a hill, the gluteus maximus has to do extra work because it has to perform in a larger range of motion.

Do you have trouble with hilly courses? I would recommend training your glutes.

Benefits of Strong Gluteal Muscles

Your gluteal muscles are amazing sources of stability for your body. What this means is less back and knee pain, helping you get past the negatives and focus on training. When you have strong glutes, your lower back doesn’t have to work extra hard to keep your hip stable – your glutes are doing the dirty work. A stable pelvis means your knees and legs don’t have to work as hard to keep you upright, reducing strain on your joints.

The strength of your glutes reduces injury potential as well, simply because you have a strong foundation to move. When you make the glutes serve their primary role and the rest of your muscles don’t have to compensate, your injury rates will go way down.

Take a look at a sprinter’s butt. Now, don’t be creepy about it, but you’ll notice that it is quite strong. This is because a built butt equals more power. Since the gluteus maximus pulls the leg back, if you have more volume of that muscle you will be able to push yourself forward with extra drive. The gluteus maximus is the biggest muscle in our body for a reason. Your butt makes you faster overall.

For distance runners, you may not need pure speed, but the strain that the glutes take away from your core is race changing. Your core brunts a lot of force from motion, and eventually it will falter. A weak core causes running form to collapse sooner or later, but even a strong one gives out sometime. If you have a powerful butt, running form won’t break down as quickly.

Running form is quite important. Your heart and lungs may still be able to go for klicks, but if your form gives out your potential will be bottlenecked.

Your Butt is Your Foundation

The strength of your glutes reduces injury potential as well, simply because you have a strong foundation to move.”

Your butt moves your hips. Almost everything depends on the integrity of your hips; you, as a runner, need your hips to function well otherwise you will falter. Your hips will give out your back and legs if they aren’t strong enough.

If you want to reduce injury, you must train your butt. A strong butt serves more than just to look good, it keeps your body functioning at its top performance. With your entire body depending on your glutes, the easiest way to reduce injury is to strengthen your glutes.

Have you had a knee injury recently? A stronger butt will likely reduce the chance of that happening again.

Did your form fall off near the end of your last race? Strengthen that butt!

Are you struggling with a sore lower back after runs? Your glutes might be the reason.

Have you noticed your hamstrings are weak after every one of your runs? The list goes on.

Your butt is your foundation. Strengthen it and fine tune it, because you won’t regret it!

Some strength workouts for your glutes include: deadlifts, squats, lunges, hip bridges, hill training, leg presses, sprinting, and donkey kicks. Focus on high weight and low reps, because that increases volume immensely and your glutes train by dishing out substantial force. It won’t always be easy, but these glute workouts will really tax your gluteal muscles. Do glute workouts only twice or thrice per week to reduce the risk of overtraining.

Race Well with Strong Gluteal Muscles

When I want to race well, I put hills and sprints into my training plans. It doesn’t matter if I want to race a distance event, I still put them in. What’s the point of sprints if you’re going to run 10k? To grow my gluteal muscles. A strong set of gluteal muscles enhances performance and makes sure that form doesn’t collapse.

Do you want a new PB? Include some glute training, I bet reaching that PB will be much easier.

Don’t neglect your glutes, runner. They are vital.

Featured image courtesy of Matt Brisher under the Creative Commons Attribution Generic 2.0 license. Cropped photo.


Caleb Thompson is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, and other Amazon stores worldwide.

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