Let’s start out by talking a little bit about the glutes and hamstrings. Both the gluteus maximus and the hamstring muscles are hip extensors meaning they work to extend the hip (think bringing your leg back behind you in a glute kickback exercise or returning to the start position in a deadlift). These muscles are active in bridge variations, deadlifts, step-ups, running, etc. It is very important that both the glutes and hamstrings are working and working properly, especially if you have any hip pain or if you have tight hamstrings!
← The Hamstrings attach from the ischial tuberosities on the pelvis (sit bones) distal to cross the knee joint and attach to the lower leg. Thus, they have a long lever arm (Hello Physics!). When they are overactive (‘tight’), due to this long lever arm, every time the hip goes into extension the femur (thigh bone) gets shoved forward in the hip socket. This can lead to significant irritation and pain at the front of the hip, which can thus influence the hip flexors at the front of the hip causing pain there as well.
← The Glute Max on the other hand has a short lever arm as it attaches from the iliac crest on the pelvis to the femur and iliotibial band tract. Thus, when the glutes are activating properly and prior to the hamstrings during hip extension, there is proper roll and glide within the hip joint. So by changing activation by getting the glutes to fire first rather than the hamstrings can help with hamstring tightness from overworking as well as with hip pain.
What I’m NOT saying is we don’t want the hamstrings working. We DO want the hamstrings working and strong as they can play a huge role in stabilization of the knee/pelvis and injury prevention. We just don’t want them overworking or working prior to the glutes! That is when we begin to see issues occur within the hip joint or tendinopathy/tendon pain of the hamstring tendons!
Here is a link to a great video by Dr. Sarah Duvall, PT on how to solve hamstring tightness by changing activation:
^^ This assessment in the video above is a perfect way to figure out if your hamstring is overworking/firing before the glute (i.e. hamstring dominant) OR if you’ve got it down already and your glutes fire first without even thinking about it (i.e. glute dominant).
I love the tip she gives in the video to retrain yourself and help get the glute to fire first by externally rotating the leg to give the glute an advantage! Try the test and see if you are glute or hamstring dominant & start working on getting those glutes activating properly to help your hip pain and reduce hamstring tightness!!
As always, make sure you see a physical therapist to help you decrease your pain, move better, and improve your overall function through a guided program individualized for you!!
Call 614-437-9002 OR Email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule :)
Kaitlin Hartley, PT, DPT