If you’re wondering right off the bat what I consider your most important running muscles, here’s the answer: your glutes.
The gluteus maximus (or glute max) initiates hip extension. And running is all about hip extension. Sure, the hamstrings are involved in extending the hips as well. But they cannot carry the burden alone. They require the more powerful glutes to get into the game. Plus, the glutes, with their greater percentage of slow-twitch fibers, are well positioned to contribute to both hip extension and core stability while running. This translates into a more effective and powerful stride…and more speed.
Unfortunately, runners in this day and age have numerous strikes against them when it comes to engaging their glutes. Excessive amounts of sitting “turn off” the glutes and inhibit their firing when you get out of that chair. Too much sitting can also result in tight hip flexors, making full hip extension difficult to attain. Plus, traditional running shoes with elevated heels tend to shift runners toward a quad-dominant firing pattern with less reliance on the glutes.
Yet sidelining the glutes during running is exactly what you don’t want. If your goal is to optimize your gait for performance and injury prevention, you need to put the mantra run from the glutes into practice. This means paying attention to supplemental drills and exercises that will allow you to strengthen your glutes and get them firing properly when running.
Below are a few video demos to get you started.