One of the most common issues I see when I am movement screening my netball athletes is that they display very weak and poor activation of their glute muscles. This poses a number of issues not only to their injury risk but also to their netball performance.
The following are the four reasons you need strong glutes to perform better and prevent injuries;
- Strong glutes PROTECT the knee joint
The glutes are heavily involved in stabilisation of the knee joint. One of the primary indications of ACL injury risk is valgus knee motion. This is the motion of the knee falling inwards (knocked knees) during landing, squatting, side stepping, jumping or changing direction and puts great stress on the knee. A weakness in the glutes causes the hip to rotate inwards during these movements which in-turn causes the knee to roll inwards, consequently increasing knee injury risk. Stronger glutes influence abduction and external rotation of the hip and reduce valgus knee motion, placing the knee in a much safer position during landing.
- Glute strength increases running speed
The glutes are the biggest and most powerful muscle in the body. Unfortunately, they also tend to be the laziest. The glutes produce a number of joint actions including hip extension, hip abduction, hip external rotation and posterior pelvic tilt. Hip extension is central to sprinting and therefore essential for sport performance. Stronger glutes = more effective hip extension = faster sprinting speeds.
- Glute strength increases jumping height
Glute strength has been linked to improved explosive power output in athletes. An athletes ability to produce force with the lower body is vital for vertical jumping performance. Power in the vertical jump begins from the ground up. The athlete must bend at the hips, knees and ankles to lengthen the lower body muscles and explode upwards. When the athlete jumps upwards this is done via hip extension. As previously mentioned, the glutes are responsible for hip extension. So, stronger glutes = more efficient hip extension = higher jumping height.
- Stronger glutes CURE lower back pain
Another issue I commonly see if not just netball athletes, but most females in general is that they have very tight hip flexors in conjunction with weak glutes. This causes the pelvis to shift anteriorly and we start to see that ‘sway back’ look. This is also major contributor to lower back pain. And the reason I see a lot of young female athletes suffering from lower back pain. As I mentioned previously the glutes are responsible for posterior pelvic tilt. By focusing on strengthening the glutes and lengthening the hip flexors we can correct this issue to alleviate lower back pain. Another important thing to note is that if the hip flexors are tight, maximum glute activation cannot occur.
Studies have shown over and over again that females land with decreased glute activation in comparison to males, and this is now being seen as a major contributor to injury risk. Remember we are 10 x more likely to do an ACL injury in comparison to males.
If you want to prevent injury AND perform better. Strengthening your glutes is a must!