Strong muscles in your buttocks are a potential powerhouse that give any aerobic activity a boost. Great glutes will give you more speed in running, cross-country skiing and skating and improve your moves in sports such as hockey, ringette, tennis and squash. How do strong glutes help? As they move your hip joint they can draw your leg backward or propel you forward, sideways, up or down. If your glutes are too weak to produce the movements they're meant to, your body will compensate by using other muscles, but this "B-team" is less efficient, so your performance suffers. Plus, compensatory muscle-movement patterns, over time, are likely to cause chronic injury.
Glutes also play a major role in knee health. Actually composed of three muscles (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus), the hardworking glutes provide critical stabilization to the hip joints. If your gluteal muscles are weak, you'll have difficulty controlling your hip and thigh movements. This will cause your knees to fold in toward each other, which can lead to knee pain. This problem is more common in women than in men because the female pelvis is wider, forming a more severe angle (the Q angle) between the hip and knee. And if your knees hurt when you move, you lose a lot of aerobic exercise choices -- virtually everything except swimming, cycling and maybe the step machine.
Stay in the game: don't let weak glutes sabotage your fitness program with knee problems. Start with this exercise to put a powerhouse behind you and get your butt in gear.
Single leg bridge
Lie on your back with your left leg bent and your left foot flat on the floor. Point your right leg straight up in the air, with the knee soft (not locked).
With the left foot, push your lower trunk into the air, keeping your back in its normal, neutral position (neither arched nor flexed). As you get to your highest point, be extra careful not to arch your back. Push up in one count and lower slowly in three counts. (Up should be faster than down.) Do one set of 12 repetitions, then change legs.
When you can do two sets easily, add an ankle weight to the lifted leg for a bigger challenge.
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