This short post is about one of my most annoying bugbears. When clients are told that their glutes are 'weak'. I hate this phrase, it not only doesn't mean anything but it's generally wrong. In the absence of nerve damage to the nerve that supplies the glutes it's very unlikely that they are weak.
How does the client know they are weak? Because they have been tested, in an isolated environment/ position and told that one side is weaker than the other.
Quick detour here - we have lots of body parts that come in 2s and in all cases they are no symmetrical. Finding out one side is 'weaker' than the other means very little.
So what's the problem?
Are the glutes not firing?
Yes and no, no they aren't is sometimes the case, or possibly they aren't needed? Or maybe they are being used in the wrong way?
All these things can happen, all at the same time. It's often not that they are weak it's just they aren't coming to the party for whatever reason. Often it's due to posture, if you are tipping your head forward and looking down, then you will sit back to counterbalance on landing, this will require the glutes to kick in early. They work hard to stabilise you, when they have done all that stabilising work they probably don't want to extend your hip very much, so they don't.
We also have the issue of pelvic side stability, if you are crossing over (bringing the foot into/past the centreline on landing) then you will HAVE to use the glute maximus to stabilise as you aren't getting the best out of the glute medius (side stabiliser).
This is also not an advantageous position to extend the hip.
What can you do about it? Well working on the glutes will help, somewhat. But you really need to address posture, where your head is, and work on side stability (glute medius). This will put the glutes back in control and give them the power they so rightly deserve.
Practice standing on one leg and driving the knee slowly forward, standing tall. You will feel the glute of the standing leg activating. This is far better way of approaching this than silly convoluted glute exercises that rarely translate to actual running.
Until next time! Happy running!