Gluteus Maximus (glute max)…Part 10 of the grumbly muscle blog…
What’s a glute max?
I’m guessing most of you will have heard of this one and know where it is roughly. It’s the heaviest and largest and should be the strongest muscle in our body and of all the gluteal muscles (yes, you have more than one), the most superficial and covers gluteus minimus and most of gluteus medius.
What does it do?
Other than look good, it is the main hip extensor with help from the hamstrings, it’s how we get up from a seated position, climb stairs, run, it helps out a little in walking and also laterally rotates the hip joint. The upper fibres help with hip abduction and the lower fibres can adduct the hip.
It also stabilises the hip keeping the pelvis balanced on the femoral heads of your femurs and can help stabilise the medial longitudinal arch of the foot through lateral rotation of the femur…discovering that blew my mind a bit!!
Located posterior to the hip, it’s made up of upper and lower fibres. It originates from the sacro-iliac ligament, sacro-tuberous ligament, lower part of the sacrum and the posterior aspect of the ilium (hip bone). The muscle also attaches into fascia, known as aponeurosis of latissimus dorsi, erector spinae and multifidus (both muscles run up parallel to the spine).
The upper fibres run into the iliotibial tract (the IT band) and the lower fibres attach onto the gluteal tuberosity on the femur.
Why does it get grumbly?
Due to working at desks, driving and other seated activities, glute max is constantly in a stretched position. When muscles are stretched, they can fatigue more easily, and when glute max fatigues, the hamstrings take over, to conserve energy, and become the dominant hip extensor.
There are other ways to affect the strength of a muscle, the nerve that innervates it may be compromised and cause weakness.
It is also synonymous with something called ‘lower cross syndrome’, where there are weak/inhibited glutes and core/abdominal muscles, and their antagonists (muscles that do the opposite) erector spinae and hip flexors are tight. This can cause an anterior tilt on the pelvis exacerbating issues and posture.
Weakness or inhibition of the glutes has been linked to a number of lower limb injuries, these are usually insidious (slow onset) injuries, but I’ll leave that for another blog.
What happens when it gets grumbly and what can we do about it?
From my point of view, I find clients that have weakened glutes often experience tightness, movement dysfunction, painful trigger points and spasming of the muscle, so not only do I release them off with a nice deep tissue massage, soft tissue releases and muscle energy techniques, I would then prescribe strengthening exercises to start progressively addressing it and begin to restore movement patterns…we start off with something nice and easy, then depending on whether a person wants to work out a home or in the gym start challenging the muscle as we improve strength.
When you’re in a seated position, the glute max moves up so you’re actually sitting on the sit bones of the lower pelvis (ischial tuberosity), not the glutes, which is why cycling seats and sitting on hard surfaces can be a bit uncomfortable. To be fair, the muscle does try and offload the sit bones while you’re sitting…but I’m not sure how much