Three muscles — the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus — make up the buttocks. The biggest of the three (and, in fact, the largest muscle of the 639 in the human body) is the gluteus maximus, which works to extend and rotate the hips and legs.
Sitting is one of those conveniences that can cause all sorts of damage to our body when done to excess
Compare sitting to today’s modern shoes and trainers. Footwear are necessary and comfortable, but they actually weaken all of the muscles and joints in your feet and ankles by doing all of the stabilization work for you – your muscles in return grow weak, complacent, and bored because they have nothing to do.
Whether you’re at work at your desk, sitting in a coffee shop, lounging on your couch after a long day, or propped up in bed with your iPad, you’re probably seated firmly on your butt while reading this – sitting has become so ingrained in our culture that most of us spend more time sitting in a chair every day than we do sleeping.
But for those of you, who simply can’t get off your feet, because your job requires you to stand or walk a lot, inactivity and fatigue also occur in the glute. Resulting in the same problems.
Your core/hips/groin/legs are no different when it comes to sitting!
When you sit down, your hip flexors (the muscles that work the movements between your pelvis and thigh bones – that crease between your thigh and groin) get tightened and shortened. Meanwhile, your hamstrings and glutes (butt) get all stretched out. Now obviously your muscles getting stretched and contracted is a part of life – it’s these actions that allow us to do fantastic things like…move. However, the problems arise when we keep these muscles in this non-standard state for hours upon hours at a time.
Think of your muscles as glorified rubber bands – they can stretch and contract as you pull them. Now, take a rubber band and wrap it around a basketball, stretching it to its limit for a few weeks. When you come back and take that rubber band off the ball, it will have almost no elasticity and won’t be able to return to its original shape.
If you’ve ever tried to do a heavy leg workout after a day filled with hours of sitting then you know what I’m talking about – you feel like an old man or woman with the flexibility of a steel girder.
And that’s just for our hips!
When you factor in slouched-over shoulders, a weakened lower back, a jacked up spine, and that hunchback look that we all adore (not), sitting in an office chair all day pretty much renders our body useless.
Weak hips, glutes, and hamstrings make it incredibly difficult to have perfect form when doing squats and deadlifts – you should be able to squat so that the tops of your thighs are below parallel (or even low enough so that your butt hits the back of your calves).
Do our weak hips then cause pronation?
Your foot and lower leg respond to the impact force of the foot hitting the ground. While you want your upper leg to move in conjunction with the foot and lower leg, weak hip stabilization strength prevents you from controlling your lower leg effectively.
Weak hips lead to a collapse inwards of the knee and thus the foot, called “induced pronation,” because the foot is being forced inwards. Since this appears to be an excessively pronating foot, high-stability shoes or orthotics are prescribed. While this will relieve knee pain for some, many will continue to struggle regardless of their shoes because their hips lack strength.
Weakness of the gluteal muscles, specifically the gluteus medius, can be the cause of a lot of leg injuries that are attributed to excessive pronation. The gluteals abduct the hip, meaning they move the leg outward from the mid line of the body. When the foot strikes the ground while running, the gluteals must contract to maintain good position of the hip, femur, knee, tibia, and foot. If there is a weakness in the gluteals, the hip will adduct (go towards the midline of the body), causing the femur, knee, and tibia to rotate inwards.
This excessive inward rotation of the leg causes an increase in pronation at the foot. The muscles in the foot that control pronation are not strong enough to counteract these forces from the hip and lower leg. The result is excessive pronation and potential injuries such as plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee, Achilles tendonitis, or shin splints.
Focusing on strengthening the gluteals, and caring for our feet can help to prevent postural problems.