Maybe you can feel it-maybe you can’t. Your glute on that one side of your body that’s always acting up (IT band pain, Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis) just isn’t firing correctly! Being an athletic trainer and working in physical therapy has caused me to be pretty in tune to my body while running, which is a blessing and a curse. I can tell when I’m not using certain parts of my body correctly and when I’m overusing others. Recently my right IT band has been tightening up on me, which lead me to think about what is going on specifically to cause this pain onset at a low number of miles ran.
Lower Crossed Syndrome
A common pattern found in runners, and quite honestly in most people in the United States due to sedentary lifestyles, is the pattern of tight hip flexors and low back muscles, and weak or underactive glute and core muscles. It’s referred to as “lower crossed syndrome” and can wreak havoc on your running form.
How to Fix It
First things first-if you feel like you’re experiencing weakness or inhibition in your glute muscle, you have to look at the hip flexor first. If your hip flexor is not allowing your leg to swing behind your body, no amount of glute strengthening will fix your problem. Start with your hip flexor stretch of choice (I like the half kneeling hip flexor stretch). Then begin to work on your glute strength. Bridges are great for hip extension and firing up those workhorses in the caboose, but if you’re looking to single out a specific side, try single leg bridges. I found that these were a bit too challenging for me and my body was compensating in order to perform them so I tried an eccentric single leg bridge to target the troublesome area.
- Begin with both legs bent and feet on the floor
- Keeping your back flat, contract your gluteal muscles
- Raise your hips off the floor (don’t let that back arch!)
- Straighten the “good” leg so that you’re bearing weight through the leg you are trying to target
- Slowly lower your hips back down to the floor
- Start with 3×5 and work your way up to 3×10