When people think of the hip muscles or buttocks, they often think of “the glutes”. What is often underestimated, is just what exactly “the glutes” incorporates.
There are 3 main muscle groups (and functions) in the gluteal region.
1 – Hip abductors
Made up of gluteus minimus and gluteus medius, they do hip abduction (ie taking the leg away from the body). One of their most important roles, is in hip and knee stability. They prevent the hip from dropping from side to side as you run or walk and they keep the knees from tipping inwards during activities too.
2 – Hip extensors
Primarily made up of gluteus maximus, this is the powerhouse of the glute muscles and is responsible for push off when walking or running, getting you up from the bottom of a squat and also plays a role in preventing the lower back from getting overloaded
3 – Hip rotators
“The deep 6”, are the muscle group responsible for hip rotation. This makes them very important for stability in pivoting or change of direction (such as any field sports). Sometimes they are referred to as the “rotator cuff of the hip”. They are made up of the:
- Piriformis – most people are familiar with this muscle in the context of “piriformis syndrome”. As the sciatic nerve (major nerve from lower back down the back of the leg) travels through this area, a tight piriformis muscle can contribute to irritation of the sciatic nerve.
- Superior and inferior gemelli
- Internal obturator – this muscle shares fascial attachment with some pelvic floor muscles. So it is often implicated in overactive or weak pelvic floor function.
- External obturator
- Quadratus femoris – this muscle is particularly important in stabilising the femoral head in the socket of the hip joint (acetabulum)
As always, when doing exercises around the hip – specificity if key. Given that the various muscles in the hip region have distinctly different functions,it is important to match the exercise to the muscle group that needs strengthening. Keeping in mind, if the hip abductors are tight you will likely need to strength them. Comparatively, if the hip rotators are tight it may be because they are weak or because they are over-worked from trying to do their job as well as the job of other muscles (eg hip abductors). In this situation, exercises that strengthen the hip abductors would be the best choice. Check with your physio what exercises are right for you! You can book with us www.barefootphysiotherapy.com.au/book/start