SIngle Leg squats to help with your glute activation by your physio in brookvale

Lower Back Pain? Forget Glute Activation, You Need Glute Endurance


It seems like everyone is talking about glute activation and building a “ghetto booty” in the exercise world to help with lower back pain. Whilst glute activation is important. It’s far more important to have proper glute endurance. Your Glutes are super important for helping you flourish. And if you’ve ever been told your glutes don’t work (I’m pretty sure if you have walked somewhere today your glutes helped you do it). If you have been working on activating the glutes before training, but have not progressed it to training them for endurance it is like a lion walking to a watering hole but not drinking.

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The Glutes And Lower Back Pain:

Your gluteals are a group of 3 muscles made up of Gluteus Maximus ( Glute Max), Gluteus Medius (Glute Med), and Gluteus Minimus (Glute Min).

Your Glute Max is the largest and most superficial. It runs from your hip bone and sits bone (sacrum) to your ITB (iliotibial band) and thigh bone (femur ). It is responsible for:

  • Laterally rotating your
  • Extending and
  • Abducting (pulling away from the body). 

Gluteus Medius is the middle child in the gluteal group. It sits between the max and min in both size and position. It to runs from your hip bone to your thigh, and is responsible for stabilising your hip, and a little bit of abduction. The fibres at the front of your glute med also help with internally rotating your leg, whilst the fibres at the back help with outwardly rotating your leg.

Glute min as the name suggests is the smallest of the gluteal muscles. It’s just below your glute med and also runs from your hip to your thigh. It works with your glute med to abduct your hip and stabilise it.

Glute Activation Is Good

Whilst glute activation is important to do before you train, it can’t be where their training stops. The glutes tend to become lazy as we move to a more sedentary lifestyle. Sitting on your bum all day makes the glutes sleepy and tired. If they aren’t being stimulated then they doze off and when you want them to work they avoid it at all cost. If your glutes aren’t pulling their weight your lower back has to work harder. More work for your lower back means lower back pain. This is why it is important to wake them up before exercise. Make sure they are woken up and firing by doing some glute activation as part of your warm-up routine. Great examples include glute bridges, clamshells and side planks.

Glute Endurance Is Better For Lower Back Pain 

Firing them up is the first step in getting them working at their peak. If they are still fast asleep then you can never build endurance into them. The glutes were designed to keep us standing upright ALL day. This means they should be working in low degree of activation for long periods of time. To test out your glute endurance, try the single-leg stance test and see how long you can last. You should be able to last at least 1 minute without feeling fatigued. If your hip drops and you lose balance, you need to work on endurance. If you feel the burn in the front of the raised hip You are compensating for poor glute endurance.

Building Glute Endurance:

The type of endurance you need is specific to you, generally working higher rep ranges at a lower weight will do the trick. But you need to think about what activity you enjoy/do the most. If you’re a runner who likes to run 10+km then your glute endurance regime will look a lot different to a gym-goer who usually works out in the 6-10 rep range. Make it specific to your sport but make sure you are looking at not only glute activation but also glute endurance which will help with your lower back pain.

 Runners, look at busting out a good 25 single-leg squats to a box (a great benchmark for anyone, not just runners). In the gym, work on larger sets of 3-5 rounds of 15 squats. If you just want a looser lower back work on the Single-leg glute bridges about for 2-3 rounds of 15-30 reps (each side).

Keen to find out more about getting your glutes fired up Click the links below:

Tight hips when doing the standing balance test 

Show your feet some love to improve Glute Activation 

Tight Hip Flexors, Stop Stretching, Start Strengthening

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