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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Tag: glute exercises

In the majority of patients I see with knee pain or knee dysfunction, I uncover gluteal weakness and poor proximal muscular stability. This can cascade into overpronation, vagus collapse, poor balance, and any number of kinetic chain issues. While this may  not be a big deal for sedentary individuals, it becomes a very big deal for athletes and those performing repetitive loading.

When searching for the best exercises to selectively strengthen the gluteal muscles, it is always wise to see what science has to say. More is not always better. I am all for efficiency and finding the most effective exercises in activating the glute over the tensor fascia lata (TFL). In this post, I am sharing a good exercise to do just that. Prior research has indicated that sidestepping and clamshells are very effective in doing just this. Click here to read a prior post on this.

The video below will walk you through his to do the running man exercise.


Click here to read my PFP column on this exercise.

Many people struggle to activate their gluteal muscles while running, jumping or performing athletic activities. Turning on these muscles and “priming” the body to utilize the glutes in its normal neuromuscular programming is helpful in improving alignment and reducing injury potential.  The band rotation exercises cue external rotation with the resistance pulling the knees toward one another.

Activating these muscles prior to doing multi-joint lifts, sprinting, plyometrics, etc. is beneficial in promoting optimal activation/stabilization in order to control excessive pronation with deceleration and eccentric training. The rotations can easily be added to the dynamic movement prep or even used as part of the normal training program. I also like to use them prior to incorporating side stepping and forward/backward walks with the bands.

The video below is one I created as part of my Functionally Fit series for PFP Magazine.  It is a staple in our rehab programs and movement prep routines for our athletes at EXOS Athletes’ Performance at Raleigh Orthopaedic as well.

I utilize bridging as an assessment and exercise tool in my training and rehab programs.  Posterior chain/hip stability is poor in many clients.  The ability to maintain a neutral spine, engage the glutes and fight rotation is NOT an easy task by any means. So, coaching and cueing proper bridging is a great way to enhance pillar strength and reduce injury risk, while facilitating better movement patterns in sport.

I wrote a recent column for PFP magazine entitled iso bridge with alternate knee extension.  Click here to read the column and the application, regression and progression of the exercise.  In addition, I have included a short video below showing double leg and single leg bridge exercises that can be used to work on the hips and core.  The second exercise is the dynamic version of the iso alternate knee extension bridge I write about. I show you some of the single leg progressions that come after mastering the iso bridge as well.

I hope this video and article is useful to you.  I also want to take this opportunity to thank you for reading my blog and wish you a very Happy New Year!

I thought a fitting way to kick off the new year would be to share the top 10 things I learned or embraced that have most shpaed and impacted my training and rehab this past year.  In no particular order I will rattle these things off.  I hope at least one of these little pearls has a positive impact on your training and/or rehab as well.

  1. Often times it appears necessary to perform a biceps tenodesis or tenotomy in active adults undergoing a SLAP repair to ensure more predictable pain relief.  I heard this at a sports medicine conference last May and I can tell you those patients having this done alongside their shoulder surgeries seem to recover quicker with less pain relief.  With that said, keep in mind that SLAP tears are difficult to define and operate on as surgeons still do not have great agreement across the board on defining the extent of injuries and how to deal with them (operative vs. non-operative).
  2. Performance on the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) has little to no correlation with athletic performance.  I screened an NBA player and an NFL player this year who both failed the screen.  However, they obviously have mad athleticism and genetic ability.  Keep in mind the FMS is a valuable tool used to assess movement and expose injury risk patterns based on the 7 tests.
  3. Soft tissue therapy is undervalued and misunderstood by most lay people.  Assessing tissue restrictions and educating our clients to perform self myofascial release techniques is essential if they want to compete and remain healthy day in and day out.  Specific problem areas I have increased my focus on this year have been the psoas, soleus and posterior rotator cuff/joint capsule.  Click here for my soleus blog post.
  4. Core training is probably as much about not moving as it is about generating force with movement.  I read work from Stuart McGill and other smart people in the field, and the concepts of anti-rotation and anti-extension are sound concepts to explore and look more closely at.  Many times, performance in sport and life require us to resist movement and maintain position so strengthening the core to resist potentially harmful and stressful motions is and should be an important part of training and rehab programs.  Understanding how to facilitate and activate core musculature in the training to protect the spine and improve mobility/strength is key.  Click here for more on my core training.
  5. Hip dissociation is an important element to train as the lack of it can impact function and performance in a negative way.  We assess it on the active SLR in FMS and I see the lack of it show up on clinical exams all the time.  Whether it is HS tightness, hip flexor weakness or simply poor neuromuscular control, clients who are unable to effectively dissociate the hips are more prone to injury and limited performance.
    Continue reading…

So, conventional wisdom and research continues to point to the need for promoting increased gluteus medius and maximus strengthening to promote better knee stability and ward off many other kinetic chain breakdowns.  While there are many examples of how to train these muscles, the question is what are the best exercises to promote hypertrophy of these groups.


Whether training or administering rehab, it is important to understand how best to activate these muscles as time may be limited.  I think it bears mentioning that core function is closely tied to pelvic posture/alignment so it will be no surprise as you see the best exercises in this post according to recent research released in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.  To promote muscle strength, higher MVIC correlates to better strength gains.  So, looking at the %MVIC of exercises clinicians and fitness pros alike can better rank the order and appropriateness of certain exercises to maximize health and performance of their clients.

According to a the study at Belmont University, the authors looked at 18 different exercises using surface EMG to study activation of the gluteus maximus and medius.  Below is a summary of the top 5 exercises stimulating greater than 70% MVIC for each muscle group:

Gluteus Medius

  1. Side plank abduction with dominant leg on bottom (103% MVIC)
  2. Side plank abduction with dominant leg on top (89% MVIC)
  3. Single leg squat (83% MVIC)
  4. Clamshell 4 (hip clam – 77% MVIC)
  5. Front plank with hip extension (75% MVIC)

Gluteus Maximus

  1. Front plank with hip extension (106% MVIC)
  2. Gluteal squeeze (81%)
  3. Side plank abduction with dominant leg on top (73% MVIC)
  4. Side plank abduction with dominant leg on bottom (71% MVIC)
  5. Single leg squat (71% MVIC)

Click here to read the abstract of the study.  I think it is fairly obvious based on the data presented in the article that core stability and training should be integrated with hip strengthening.  I presented a column in Functionally Fit last year on plank with hip extension and abduction using a BOSU.  This is more advanced concept than just the traditional plank, but a very good exercise.  See the picture below:


Click here to read the entire column on the BOSU plank with hip extension/abduction.  This particular exercise requires hip disassociation and core stability.  I just finished a new column for PFP Magazine on BOSU clamshells so stay tuned for that one as it reveals a side lying progression to optimize hip strength as well.