Runners often complain of chronic muscular imbalances. Whether one hamstring is tighter than the other or injury has created systemic weakness, it’s a good idea to do some basic strengthening exercises.
I have a chronically weak right glute due to tromping through the rain forest in the belly button of Costa Rica over 20 years ago. Trail running has strengthened the glute to a point, but the imbalance rears its ugly head when I do extended road or speed work. Coming off a 16-week marathon training cycle, I’ve put in my share of fast road miles and recently visited my trusted Physical Therapist to see what kind of damage I’ve done.
My PT, an Age-Grouping Ironman, had me do a few one-footed squats. I squatted like a champ on the left foot, then gritted my teeth when I wobbled on the right. He chuckled, laid me down on the table and promptly gave me two exercises for the glute.
1. External Rotation Clamshell: Lie on your left side with your left leg straight on the floor (no bend in the hip). Place your right hand on the floor in front of you to support the upper body. Bend your right leg until the arch of the right foot rests on the inside of the left knee. Start with the right knee touching the floor in front of you, then slowly raise the knee toward the ceiling, keeping the right foot in contact with the left knee at all times. When you’ve raised the right knee as high as you can, slowly lower it back to the starting position. Repeat this exercise 15 times.
2. Side leg lift: Lie on your left side with your left leg straight on the floor, as though you are standing. Stack your right leg on top of your left and roll slightly forward so that your right arm is taking a little of your weight. Begin by turning the right foot so that the toes point upwards. Very slowly raise the leg as far as you can, keeping the toes pointed up. This posture engages the gluteus medius. At the top of the exercise gently release the leg back down. Let the toes return to a neutral position. Repeat this exercise 15 times.
After doing each exercise 15 times, repeat the set once again. Do these consistently twice a day for two weeks, then you can join me at my next PT appointment and we’ll see who’s butt is stronger.