The importance of Lower Glute Max Strength

With the final in my series of Yoga for Runners workshops happening this Saturday, the focus of hamstrings, calves and feet is quite an obvious one – the added focus of Gluteus Maximus, perhaps not so, specifically Lower Gluteus Maximus.

It’s well known that Glute Max is the largest and most powerful muscle in the body, it’s a pretty obvious one! But how many of you knew that the upper and the lower portions actually have different functions?? Whilst the upper glut max has similar functionality to TFL, in externally rotating and abducting, the lower part primarily extends the hip joint, with only some abduction.

So, having different functions, we can almost consider the upper and lower parts to be separate muscles, and therefore strengthened and released in different ways. Now, because in our modern, relatively luxurious lifestyles we tend to sit too much, the lower glute max can become rather lazy and weak, with many people finding it hard to ‘connect’ with. This means that upper glute max often works much harder than it should, and tries to do the job of it’s lower counterpart, which it just can’t do well, leaving it tight, sore and causing tension elsewhere.

This becomes even more significant when running. As the lower half of the muscle extends the hip (that’s the role of lifting the heel towards the butt), this is an essential movement in a natural and efficient running technique. Hence the focus for this weekend’s workshop!

We’ll be exploring simple and more challenging ways to strengthen Lower Gmax and release Upper Gmx in the workshop, amongst releasing tension of the feet, calves, hamstrings and hips. Below, the first video shows one of the simplest ways to check in with and strengthen LGmx.

In the following sequence, I move between working the LGmx by thinking about ‘hugging’ my sitting bones in this version of Utkatasana/ chair and Horse, and releasing it in the forward folds, as well as the hamstrings. 

I’ll be running the Runner’s workshop series again but dates aren’t set yet, so please join me if you can at Five Elements near St Agnes Cornwall this Saturday for two hours of feet, calves, hamstrings and booty, including a few easy running drills and recovery yoga. There is space if you want to join by booking here.