Glue exercises to avoid triathlon injuries with advice from physiotherapist Barry Edwards
If you want to avoid running injuries this winter, it’s time to stop thinking about your legs and look higher.
Many of the lower back and leg injuries that plague runners can be attributed to weakness or poor recruitment of the gluteal muscles. They can either be inhibited due to overactivity of other muscles, such as the hamstrings and quadriceps, or because poor posture alters the recruitment pattern of the gluteals.
For example, excessive sitting from a sedentary job can cause hip flexor shortening and overstretching of the gluteals, leading to their inhibition. Poor running style also causes inhibition of the glutes and most runners I see at the clinic are what could be termed ‘lumbar extension runners.’ This is when their hip extension comes from the lumbar spine rather than the hip. This causes the low back muscles to be overactive and prevents the gluteals from working correctly. Overpronation (flat feet) is also a factor, as it causes the knees and hips to turn in, which overstretches the posterior gluteus medius. These muscles are important stabilisers of the hip during running, and do not function as effectively when over-stretched.
More often than not the gluteals are the weak link in the chain and this is when overcompensations and overuse injuries develop. Thankfully there are some very effective exercises that help improve the strength and recruitment of your gluteals. These could both cure and prevent many running injuries, so why not give them a try?
This exercise targets the posterior gluteus medius. To feel this muscle just place your hands on the glutes as though your hands were in your back pockets.
- Keep your ankles together and lift your top knee off the bottom knee
- Lower your knee back down and repeat this for about 20 reps. Keep your deep abdominals engaged by pulling your belly button in
Swiss ball superman
This exercise challenges the whole proprioceptive automatic core stability system and is a very good low load, low intensity exercise for runners.
- Lie over a Swiss ball with your hands and feet on the ground for balance
- Slowly raise your right arm and left leg to a horizontal position and hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 10 times
Prone gluteal squeeze
This exercise engages your deep abdominals, gluteus maximus and posterior gluteus medius and is a good basic exercise to kick-start your glutes.
- Lie in position as shown in the picture above (pillow may be placed under the abdomen in cases of excessive lumbar curve)
- Gently draw your belly button in towards your spine, then tighten your gluteals
- Push your heels together to activate your posterior gluteus medius
- Hold for five-10 seconds and repeat 10 times. Hamstrings cramp is a sign that glutes are very weak so good concentration is a must
Standing hip extension
This exercise encourages hip extension to come from using the glutes rather than just the lumbar spine. This protects your lower back and reduces the risk of running injuries.
- Stand on a step. Draw abdominals in and tighten the glutes of your support leg
- Extend one leg back by engaging your glutes (make sure glutes on support leg remain activated)
- It is important to remember that hip extension is only about 10 degrees so make sure you do not take the leg back too far
- Do two sets of 15 reps for each leg
You can find more winter triathlon training articles here