by Michael Greenhouse
Date Released : 06 May 2009
I am 28 years old and started having knee pain a few months ago. I went to have X-rays done, and they couldn’t find anything that would cause the pain. It’s more of bad ache than anything, and it’s only after training legs. I have great ROM and no pain during training. There are no exercises that cause pain on the spot. It’s always the next day. Does anyone have an idea of what could be causing this? I’ve heard it may be because my gluteus muscles aren’t firing. How can I get them to fire?
I truly cannot tell you what is causing the pain without a more in-depth assessment. The pain could be from poor form or over/under active muscles. When your knees hurt, the first thing you want to do is stretch and foam roll your calves, because the calve muscles origin is the calcaneous and femur. But yes, improper firing of the gluteus muscles can and will cause pain in the knees as well as the hips and lower back. The reason for this is because the gluteus muscles are very powerful muscles that are connected to the hamstring and erector spinae. When gluteus muscles fail to fire, these muscles have to pick up the slack, which causes the body to become stressed and then injured. Since the problem can be the gluteus muscles and you inquired information on how to fire them correctly, I’ll cover this now.
Every time you take a step, your gluteus muscles fire… or at least, they’re supposed to fire. Now have you ever taken a step and suddenly fell off balance? If you answered yes, the reason for this is due to poor gluteus firing. Remember, the gluteus muscles play a huge part in your balance, and the stronger your gluteus muscles are, the better your balance. In turn, the weaker your glutes are, the worse you balance will be.
Some of the problems caused by poor gluteus activation are as follows:
- Weak Core
- Poor Posture
- Poor Force Production
- Poor Vertical
- Increase Injury Potential (i.e., Pulling a Hamstring)
- Poor Lateral Movement
- Poor Balance
- Aches and Pain (Lower Back, Knees, and Hips)
Every one of these issues can and will cause a lot of unnecessary problems, and they can be corrected/helped with proper gluteus activation. For the gluteus muscles to fire correctly, they need to be warmed up and properly stretched. Some effective warm up exercises are resisted lateral movements w/bands and leg swings.
If you have tight hip flexors and/or hamstrings, this will cause the gluteus muscles to be under active and cause poor activation. There is a laundry list of problems that can occur due to poor gluteus activation. Some effective ways to activate the gluteus muscles include the following:
- Standing Jump
- Side Squats/Lateral Lunges
- Hockey Lunges (Lunges at a 45 degree angle)
- Climb Stairs
- Reaching Lunges (Extended your hand your lunged foot)
- Kettlebell Swings
- Leg Press
Proper gluteus activation is an important part to any client’s fitness success. With every explosive movement, the gluteus muscles have to fire and produce your power needed to perform the action. Every time you perform a squat or an Olympic exercise, your gluteus muscles play a big part. If they are not firing, your body will ask for help from muscles that cannot handle the load, and then an injury occurs. Proper gluteus muscles activation will help the hip muscles produce more power and allow the core to function more efficiently. To understand why this works, you must understand how the gluteus muscles are connected through the body. Remember, the more you know, the better you become!
02 May 2012, 13:43 PM
Go see a Muscle Activation Techniques specialist and they can check to see which muscles are responsive and which ones aren't.
02 Dec 2009, 16:34 PM
Are you serious about the leg press being a good exercise for glute firing. From the angle of supported pad, you get knee extension but not compete hip extension.
16 Aug 2009, 08:00 AM
Over simplification for a gross biomechanical process. Knee pain is more related to hip dysfunctions or ankle dysfunctions and how each person gets there is specific to them. Generalizing and to say do this and do that because that is what works for everyone is a diservice to the client and the industry. Hamstrings also are a hip extensor and if they are inhibited for any reason they can also cause a dysfunction or inhibitory response to the Gluteals which will limit their ability to function. All muscles contract and fire, but receive less proprioceptive input as the tissue is shortening it's length. If their is a serious lack of input as it shortens the body will try to find a way to have other tissues related to the inhibited tissue to pick up the slack. In other words lose efficiency in the movement and increase the amount of load that related tissues have to handle, which can cause inhibition of those tissues as well. I would recommend seeking out a Muscle Activation Techniques Specialist (M.A.T) in your area to get a more thorough biomechanical analysis and assessment of what tissue is not able to handle load appropriately. I have been studying this process for the last few months and have seen some interesting results with clients and myself personally. I no longer "stretch" random muscles anymore hoping to increase ROM and decrease pain. Not saying stretching is bad, but taking a look only at a few muscles on the body and say they are weak/inhibited without taking a overall assessment of total lower extremity muscular function may potentially have you chasing your tail. Check out www.muscleactivation.com for a specialist near you or check for a Jump Start class
to potentially get in and get ready to look at the body in a different way than you have previously thought.
10 Jun 2009, 03:31 AM
Just be sure you're pushing through your heels and relaxing your toes during movements like a squat, or a lunge (front foot), or leg press. Even when balancing on one leg, try to be heavy on your heel and light on your toes. This will ensure you are firing the glute. You will feel it in your knees if you continue to use your toes. Make sure to stretch the muscles surrounding the patella- rectus femoris, adductors, hamstrings, and calves. As always, try to keep the glutes tight, and draw your navel in toward your spine during any movement.