3 Gluteus Exercises to Wake up a Swimmer's Butt

Despite the benefits of swimming, the chronic exposure to a buoyant, non-weight bearing (WB) environment may be be responsible for the development of deloading-related adverse consequences. Often low bone mineral density (BMD) is the main concern, but other issues on postural support mechanisms may explain why swimmers have an increased susceptibility to injury during dry-land cross-training tasks.

A better understanding of postural weight bearing muscle function during locomotion in this population is required to understand the effects of non-weight bearing training and the adverse effects.

Gluteus minimus (GMin) is a deep hip joint stabilizer because of its morphological orientation and approximation to the hip joint capsule; and is reported to have higher numbers of muscle spindles, and a higher proportion of Type 1 muscle fibers than it’s hip abductor synergists. These local stabilizing properties suggest that Gluteus minimus may be more vulnerable than gluteus medius to adverse changes in size or function in response to a lack of gravitational load, as in swimming. Dysfunction of Gluteus minimus may affect the ability to bear weight during functional tasks such as walking.

A recent study (Semciw 2015) compared gluteus minimus and gluteus medius muscle size (MRI) and activity (electromyography, EMG) in swimmers to a healthy age- and gender-matched sample.

The secondary aim was to identify whether the segmental EMG differences identified in ‘non-swimmers’ during gait are also present in swimmers. Knowledge of potential adverse adaptations in these muscles may have implications for the development of injury prevention strategies in swimmers and other deloading sports, hobbies, occupations or environments.

This study offers preliminary evidence to suggest that the normal, segmental activation of gluteus minimus during gait is not present in swimmers (particularly elite). This may affect the versatility of gluteus minimus in contributing to a range of weight bearing tasks, particularly those involving large strides. The mechanism of this is unclear, but could be related to an increase in anterior gluteus minimus motor demand in response to deloading related inhibition, or postural related mechanical inefficiency. Such changes might predispose the athlete to a greater risk of lower limb injury during weight bearing activities.

Therefore, strengthening the gluteus minimus and improving the muscular activity is one avenue for reducing dryland related injuries, particularly at the low back, hip, and knee. Here are three gluteus exercises to wake up a swimmer's butt!

  1. Side Plank: Form a side pillar or bridge with your abdominals braced by supporting your body in a side-lying position with just one foot and one forearm touching the ground. Stack the legs and place the hand of the upper arm on the hip. Keep your body in a straight line and contract your glutes. 
  2. Band Walkout: Securely set-up a band waist height. Next, straighten your elbows, grasping the band, brace your abdominals, and walk out slowly as far as you can while keeping the hands in line with the belly button. Slowly return without letting the band pull your rapidly back.
  1. Rotation with Band: Set a band at waist height. Next, turn perpendicular to the band and straighten your arms. Slowly, rotate your back leg and arms forward, in a circular motion in a controlled manner. Return slowly.

Summary:

Although the glutes aren't as involved in swimming as other ground-based sports, having properly timed glut muscles on land during dryland is key for injury prevention. Also, properly firing of the glutes are likely key for starts and turns, the two "ground-based" exercises in swimming. 

Reference:

  1. Semciw AI et al.  Gluteal muscle function and size in swimmers. J Sci Med Sport.(2015) Online