If you are not being taught this by your education company, then it is important you go out and learn it! We teach it, others might too, make sure you are not left behind!!

It has been suggested to me on many courses, that the squat is supposed to be the best exercise ever. It does everything. It is a hip strengthening, gluteus-maximus-getting exercise that carries over to everything. I think it has a great PR agent…I also think the Gluteus Maximus has a great PR agent too, but that is for another day!

Lets take a look at the gluteus maximus first. Applying the FASTER idea of how to recruit a muscle,

  • Movement goal identified, and motivation to perform set at an appropriate level.
  • Skill selected and appropriate pre-movement muscle contractions occur.
  • Sub-conscious preparation of the body for movement, with a contraction of supporting muscles in the core. (1,2)
  • Conscious contraction of one or more muscles to create initial movement towards the goal. (1)
  • Bones move and, in response to gravity, momentum and ground reaction, get moved in space. The movement of the bone can be broken down into six components, which we will look at later. (3)
  • The joints in the body, along with the fascia, muscle, connective tissue and other senses in the body, relay information back to the central nervous system.
  • Rapid decisions are made with regards to the appropriate response. The selected response is made locally to the joint, via the muscle spindle.
  • Muscles contract to guide the body away from danger of injury, or into a position offering the least possible danger. These decisions are made based on skill, conditioning, experience, pain, environment and many other factors, but they are mainly taken subconsciously, and the subject has little or no control over them, unless a conscious effort is made to override them! (4)

then observing the Gluteus Maximus –

As you can see from the video, the Gluteus Maximus originates at the Sacrum and then runs down the lateral side of the femur (inserting in to it) and then becomes the Iliotibial Band which then runs down to the front of the knee joint on to the lateral aspect of tibia tubercle. To get most stretch from the muscle, it would be at the Hip Joint, and in the Sagittal and Transverse Planes, into flexion and internal rotation, with an influence in the frontal plane, into adduction.

If you were to break down walking, then it would look as follows. As you will see, as the foot hits the floor, there is a reaction through the joints that activates the Gluteus maximus. Here we have the HMAC IV to show you this.

Walking Video (Three Planes walk, we have HMAC’ed the Sagittal Walk)

The front foot HMAC (loading the Gluteus Maximus in Gait)

Loading the front foot

We filled this in using the motion analysis software, Kinesio Capture. I used the frame by frame feature to watch the motion.
motion analysis

If the HMAC was completed for the movements, then it would be become evident that the one of the ways the Gluteus Maximus would come out, would be through via the opposite hip flexor, driving the pelvis into an opposite rotation, pushing the femur out via the femur. At one time, my friend at Physioblogger, Neil Poulton, had to endure a plane flight with me, where we discussed renaming the muscle the Ilioguteus! In locomotion the key to having that efficient gluteus maximus may be through having a responsive opposite hip flexor. Going further, that would require a foot that provides a firm enough surface for the hip flexor to help.

So getting to the squat, if it were performed on one leg, then it would be more like a loading foot in gait and so the gluteus should respond in a lengthening, loading phase, however the return from that place would be less like locomotion horizontally and more like jumping vertically.

If we take the squat itself, then depending on the coached technique, we may find we are even further away from the Gluteus Maximus. Although the Sagittal Plane is being used, the transverse plane could be moving in either internal or external rotation on the loading component of the motion, and so this could effect the power that could be gained from this muscle.

Using the squat as a primary way of strengthening the gluteus maximus seems like it won’t have the best transfer of training to the gluteus maximus in loading in the transverse plane. It also does not seem like it would transfer so well towards locomotion, or full range activation.

Here are some alternatives that would perhaps get the gluteus maximus lengthened in three planes prior to unloading. These exercises are generic, and so we call them base exercises. Each base exercise is designed to be allowed to be changed so that the movements of flexion and internal rotation with adduction. In the next blog I will share with you how we do this, and our Napkin Program card! Until then, here are a few Base Exercises to play with.

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(1) David G, Magarey ME, Jones MA, Dvir Z, Turker KS, Sharpe M. “EMG and strength correlates of selected shoulder muscles during rotations of the glenohumeral joint.”
School of Physiotherapy, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia.

(2) Hodges, P. W., Richardson, C. A. “Feedforward contraction of transversus abdominis is not influenced by the direction of arm movement” Experimental Brain Research
Springer Berlin / Heidelberg Start Page: 362 – End Page: 370 Volume: 114 Issue: 2

(3) Tang, P.-F., Woollacott, Marjorie H., Chong, Raymond K. Y. “Control of reactive balance adjustments in perturbed human walking: roles of proximal and distal postural muscle activity” Experimental Brain Research 1998-02-12 Springer Berlin / Heidelberg Start Page: 141 – End Page: 152

(4) . Physical Therapy May 1983vol. 63 no. 5 664-673 d “Motor Control : How Posture and Movements are Governed” Vernon B Brooks