Hello and welcome to April’s edition of Muscle of the Month!
By: Dr. Casey Swann
This month, I’d like to talk about gluteus maximus. While the glute max is often the butt of many jokes, this is a muscle that demands respect. Located superficially, the glute max begins at the end of the iliac crest and attaches down the sacrum to the coccyx. The muscle then stretches outwards and downwards and inserts into two places: its own bony protuberance on the femur (gluteal tuberosity) and iliotibial band (IT band). (picture obtained from Grey’s Anatomy)
When gluteus maximus is performing correctly, it extends the thigh, rotates the hip outwards or inwards, brings the hip up or down, braces the leg when the knee is straight, draws the pelvis backward and assists our bodies in standing up straight. Having a healthy, fully functional glute max is very important to proper biomechanics and posture.
(picture obtained from www.studyblue.com)
Finding your gluteus maximus is pretty easy. If you simply put your hand on your own buttocks, you are feeling your gluteus maximus. To feel the glute max working, stand on your right leg and put your left leg slightly out in front of you. Now place your hand on your left buttock. Bring your left leg slowly back behind your body. When you’ve brought it back as far as you can and you’re squeezing the leg straight, you should be able to feel your glute max tensed up under your hand.
Lately I’ve been seeing quite a few tight and unhappy gluteus maximus muscles in the office. Glute weakness is very common because we sit on them all day. When you sit, the muscles are stretched, and any muscle stretched all day will become inhibited and weak. Other problems arise from lack of warm up before physical activity, muscle knots and trigger points, inhibited calf muscles, and bad biomechanics of the pelvis.
(picture obtained from www.triggerpoints.net)
Because the gluteus maximus is so big and inserts into so many places, it has ties to many other muscles. At its origin on the iliac crest and sacrum it shares connections to the erector spinae muscles and therefore to low back pain. It inserts onto the thigh bone between the adductor muscles and the biggest quad muscle (vastus lateralis) influencing two of the largest muscles in the thigh. It also becomes part of the IT band which any runner will tell you woeful stories about. The gluteus maximus also lays directly ontop of the piriformis muscle which is a huge aspect of the treatment of sciatica. It’s safe to say the gluteus maximus a very important muscle to consider when treating dysfunction of the thigh muscles, IT band syndrome, low back pain, and sciatica.
Stretching your gluteus maximus is easy. Simply lie on the floor and bring a single knee to your chest. Hold that knee securely with your hands and bring the knee across your chest slightly. You should feel a stretch in your buttock. Also using a foam roller to stretch the glutes can be very helpful.
Strengthening the gluteus maximus is also relatively simple. Lie on your back. Bend your knees and bring your feet close to your seat. Now push your pelvis up to the sky, contracting your buttocks. This is called a bridge-up. Do several repetitions and you will feel your glutes burning. Be sure to keep your neck relaxed.
(picture obtained from www.vivid-host.com)
A very important thing to realize is that if you sit a majority of the day, you need to get up and walk around to avoid over-stretching your glutes.
Other methods of treating dysfunction of the gluteus maximus muscles is active release technique, massage, acupuncture, and physical therapy.
Be sure to visit Performance Sports and Wellness for a full evaluation on your gluteus maximus muscles and to ask any questions you may have.
Don’t have any gluteus maximus problems to complain of? Great! Send this article to someone you know who does.
About Dr. Swann: Dr. Casey Swann graduated from Southern California University of Health Sciences with her Doctorate of Chiropractic in spring 2012. She is full body certified in Active Release Technique and holds certifications in Graston Technique, Cox Technique and Kinesiotaping. She practices at Performance Sports and Wellness with Dr. David Ness in New Paltz & Poughkeepsie.