Glute Activation: Debunked

Two main myths are debunked here for runners.

Glutes don’t “shut off” or need “activation.”

Glute Max isn’t as important for running as people think.

Myth #1 debunked: Unless you have a serious nerve injury, your glutes are likely “firing” just fine. The proposition that we can instantly “increase the activation” of a muscle through exercise is unsubstantiated. The closest thing we have is something called “post-activation potentiation” (PAP) which can sometimes get an improvement in muscle performance after maximal muscle contractions and I can tell you that the typical “glute activation exercises are not nearly maximal.”

Myth #2 debunked: According to a very important research paper by Dorn et al in 2012, the Glute Max produces a peak muscle force of approximately 1.8x bodyweight. Seems like a lot? Not in comparison to the rest of the running muscles. According to this study, the glute max produces less force than the iliopsoas (a hip flexor), the hamstrings, glute med, quads, and far less force than the soleus of the calf topping out a whopping 6-8x bodyweight for peak force produced during running. Point is, the glute max isn’t special, so special attention to it likely isn’t worth your time..

Final thoughts:

Lots of athletes have rituals… so if that’s what glute activation is for you, and it’s worth your time? Go for it.
If you just like doing it, or truly feel like it works for you? Go for it.
Is there something more impactful you could be doing instead? Maybe do that instead.
The fact that some runners attribute their ability to stay healthy as a runner to things like activation exercises doesn’t foster a sense of human adaptability and resilience. So if you can ditch it, that’s what I recommend, because I truly believe that you don’t need it.

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Dr. AJ Cohen

Up And Running Physical Therapy

"We Help Runners And Active Adults In The Fort Collins Area Overcome Injury And Be Stronger Than Ever, Avoid Unnecessary Time Off, All Without Medications, Injections, Or Surgery."