Want Healthy Knees? How’s Your Butt Performing?

My butt? Performing? That’s right… how’s your glute activation, your glute strength-how well is your butt performing for YOU?

Int:Ext Rotation 3-3

Ever see your knees doing any of this? Hopefully not too much. While the knee is capable of some rotation inward and outward, it’s primarily designed to act as a hinge. Whether you lead an active lifestyle or not-there are plenty of opportunities for knee injuries. Consider how many activities are high impact or involve repeated, unpredictable loading of the knee and it’s tissues! Things like skiing, running, hiking, soccer, football and many others. On top of that, the average individual takes around 1-2 million steps per year. Luckily, with proper training, your knees can become the strong, stable joints they should be. So how do we keep our knees healthy and continue to play hard? Read on…

One way to keep your knees healthy is by strengthening the glutes (your butt) to limit inward rotation of the knee. First, understand that lateral and medial rotations of the knee can be safe. Also, understand that we have a better chance of maintaining healthy knees when the joint is in proper alignment-like that seen in the photo on the far left. Strength training is key when it comes to building durable knees. So train appropriately, and don’t neglect your strength work-especially your hip and glute focused strength work!

A number of things can cause a knee to “cave” inward-as shown in the middle photo. Often, this happens with a lack of glute activation-so use your butt! If the glutes are shut down or just plain weak, certain movements or tension from other tissues can shift the knee inward. When the knee internally rotates or “caves,” it moves out of alignment and becomes vulnerable. An impact in this position can deliver big time forces at odd angles to structures like the MCL, ACL, meniscus, and others.

How do the glutes help out exactly? Your glutes are made up of a few different tissues, two of which have critical roles. Glute max and glute medius help rotate the upper leg bone (the femur) outward. This enables you to maintain alignment down at the knee joint by preventing knee “cave” from happening in the first place.

Strong glutes are a plus for everyone, but certain populations really should make them a focus. Women especially need to be conscious of glute activation since they have a wider pelvis, making them more prone to internal rotation at the knee. #skiers sometimes struggle with glute activation, given their quad strength and that they spend a lot of time in positions where the glutes are lengthened-making them more challenging to contract. Runners and hikers should also consider making glute activation a priority in their training-particularly those individuals with weak or little to no arches present in their feet.