Glute Activation with Eilish McColgan

Our ChangeMaker Eilish McColgan has glutes of steel. She’s taken some time out of her busy training schedule, after a personal best time in Doha, Qatar and between prep for Tokyo 2020, to help the DNAfit family to properly prep our glutes.

Who better to teach us about the glutes than two-time Olympian and DNAfit ChangeMaker Eilish McColgan. She’s put together a Glute Activation Circuit, which we’ve packaged into a helpful video and guide to help you fire up your glutes.

The power of glutes

It’s believed that running strength comes mainly from the quads at the front of the leg. But, the real powerhouse are the glutes! Yup! We’re talking about your butt muscles! If you activate your glutes before running, or as part of your injury prevention routine, you’ll achieve greater gains in the long term.

Eilish’s Glutes Activation Circuit Blog images-02-min 

The glutes have two jobs when you’re running:

  1. To help pull your leg back, once it’s in contact with the ground.
  2. To stabilise your hips while you’re standing on one leg (which is about half the time while running).

If your glutes aren’t conditioned properly, it’ll decrease the efficiency of your running affecting your force generation ability. Weak glutes can also increase the risks of injuries such as hips, lower back, runners knee (iliotibial / IT band syndrome).

Watch Eilish McColgan's glute activation circuit

Watch Olympian Eilish McColgan's glute activation circuit

The glutes are made up of 3 muscles

There are three muscles in your behind:

  1. Gluteus maximus
  2. Gluteus medius
  3. Gluteus minimus 

Eilish’s Glutes Activation Circuit Blog images-01-min

Glute Muscles Functions

Gluteus maximus

The Gluteus maximus provide power while running. To move your body forwards, you have to push backwards—otherwise known as hip extension. (Hip flexion would be bringing your knee towards your chest.) During running, this movement happens when your foot touches the ground and drives your leg behind you. The gluteus maximus, the largest of the glute muscles, helps perform this action along with your hamstrings.

Gluteus medius and minimus

Your Gluteus medius and minimus provide stability while running. During running, you are, for the most part, standing on one leg. The gluteus medius and minimus are positioned on the side of the leg and contract to keep your hips stable. If they’re weak, your pelvis will drop, creating a chain reaction of stress that will flow down your leg. 

A quick test to check for weak gluteus medius and minimus is to stand on one leg to see if your hips drop to the side of the raised leg. If you see a running specialist, they may video you from behind and then replay you the clip. In slow motion, you’ll be able to see if your hips are dropping.

If they do, you need to work on those glutes!

Why are my glutes weak?

Muscles work in pairs. Opposite to the gluteus maximus is the hip flexor, which brings the knee towards the chest. As we spend a lot of time sitting, the hip flexor muscle tends to shorten. The shorter the hip flexor becomes, the more inactive the glutes get.

As there are numerous other supporting muscles in the legs, when we have weak glutes, the other muscles compensate for this weakness. We can lean on the hamstrings and quads to get around. However, bad movement patterns will ultimately cause an imbalance that will lead to injury, over time.

Our goal is to condition our glutes, so that they are strong enough to contribute effectively when running. Alongside this exercise program, be sure to incorporate some hip flexor stretches to create more overall balance in the hips.

Eilish’s Glutes Activation Circuit Blog images-03-minThe ‘couch stretch’ helps lengthen the hip flexors and attenuate anterior pelvic tilt

Eilish McColgan Glute Activation

Eilish makes sure she activates her glutes before every hard running session. All you need to get is a resistance band to go around your thighs. These often come in packs of several bands in different colours. You can choose the colour that offers the right resistance for you.

Check out Eilish McColgan’s Glute Activation Circuit video and download her handy guide for your next glutes session. The guide includes all the helpful information here as well as step-by-step guidelines to Eilish’s Glute Activation Circuit.

Get my video guide


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