Do your participants ever complain of lower back or front knee pain? It might be caused by under-utilizing the gluteus medius. Dr Jinger Gottscall explains why we should all be thinking about our glutes a little more.

Les Mills Trivia: What are two things that a lunge and a bridge have in common?

  1. Both exercises are commonly executed in a single Les Mills release. For example, there could be both lunges and bridges in a single BODYPUMP™, BODYBALANCE™/BODYFLOW®, LES MILLS TONE™, or CXWORX™ class!
  2. Both exercises initiate activity of the gluteus medius which is a tricky muscle to turn on, yet super important for daily activities and functional mobility.

What is the gluteus medius?

The gluteus medius is one of three gluteal muscles. It is located on the outside, back hip (lateral, posterior) with a function of moving your leg away from the midline (abduction) as well as both internal and external rotation of the hip. Functionally, the gluteus medius stabilizes your pelvis and hip joint during weight-bearing activities such as walking and running.

Why is the gluteus medius important?

Because this muscle is difficult to activate, it is often weak, which can alter hip and knee function. In fact, individuals with lower back and front knee pain often suffer from under-utilized gluteus medius. Therefore, attending BODYPUMP, BODYBALANCE/BODYFLOW, LES MILLS TONE, or CXWORX classes is a fantastic recommendation to assist in strengthening this muscle to reduce discomfort.

How do you maximize gluteus medius activity in a lunge and bridge?

LUNGE: The position setup for a lunge is critical for safe technique and ultimate activation. If you have new participants to a class, demonstrate how to achieve the optimal distance between the legs with a 90-90 kneeling lunge. Ensure that the front knee is stacked over the front ankle and that the knees are hip distance apart. Tuck the back toe under and lift up. As you perform the dynamic lunge with an up and down movement, square both shoulders and hips, raise chest, and brace core (especially as you lift).

Try these Layer 2 cues: You can fire up the gluteus medius even more by holding a single plate in the hand of the back leg. Lead the dynamic lunge with the back knee by lowering it to the floor until the front thigh is parallel to the ground. After reaching the optimal range, push through the front heel while you press the front knee slightly away from the midline to return to the start position.

BRIDGE: The position setup for a bridge is lying on the ground (supine) with knees bent (flexed) and feet hip distance apart. Lift and lower body without twisting to perform a dynamic bridge while keeping both shoulders and hips square to the floor.

Try these Layer 2 cues: You can energize the gluteus medius even more by resting a plate on your thighs or placing your heels closer to your hips. Consciously contract your glutes as you lift hips by pushing through heels. As you perform multiple repetitions, maintain continual activity of the glutes by keeping hips off the floor.

Incorporate the WHY into your Layer 2 coaching for both the lunge and the bridge.

Once your participants are executing quality repetitions begin to speak about the unique aspects of the lunge and bridge. Educate them about the often-ignored gluteus medius and how important this muscle is to daily tasks such as walking up stairs. You can also inquire if anyone has experienced lower back or front knee pain and highlight that a strong gluteus medius can help prevent this discomfort.

How cool that these exercises with a significant functional benefit are common in multiple Les Mills programs! Now we can share the why with our participants.

Dr. Jinger S. Gottschall is currently an associate professor of Kinesiology at The Pennsylvania State University studying the effectiveness of various exercise regimens. Dr. Gottschall is also a consultant for Les Mills International and a scientific advisory panel member for the American Council of Exercise. Most importantly, Jinger has a passion for physical activity and appreciates the paramount importance of promoting balanced, healthy lifestyle choices.

You can find Jinger on Instagram and Facebook using the handle @jingerfitness.