If you swim, bike, run, walk, climb stairs or use an elliptical
for exercise, no doubt you’re fully aware of the big muscles of your leg that you’re working. Those quads, hamstrings, glutes, and even calves use lots of fuel and tone up as you exercise. But there’s another group of muscles that we don’t pay much attention to, yet works equally hard when we exercise:
The small muscles of your hip and inner glutes are working, and they’re working hard.
The muscles I’m referring to are the Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL)* and the teeny glute muscles underneath your gluteus maximus**. These muscles help to hold your thigh bone (femur bone) inside your hip socket while you’re moving your legs forward and back.
The thing is, these muscles don’t get strong just because they’re doing their job holding the leg in place all day long. In fact, if we don’t exercise and strengthen them directly, they can become weak, overworked and sore. You may also get some knee pain.
How do these muscles affect the knee?
Well, the Gluteus Maximus and TFL insert into the IT band at the outside of your hip which runs down the outside of your thigh and outside of your knee. This band helps to hold your knee in alignment. These muscles need to be strong and flexible to keep the knee and hip moving comfortably in a healthy range.
Although the other, smaller glute muscles don’t connect to the IT band, they do hold your hip together and help it to stabilize while you exercise and even while you walk or stand. The strength and stability of your hip affects your knee because, well… the hip bone’s connected to the leg bone and the leg bone’s connected to the knee… (sing it with me).
The two exercises in the video above are great for strengthening all the smaller glute and hip muscles
so they can do their job holding the hip in place without getting fatigued, sore and tight. They’re easy, quick exercise to include in your twice per week strengthening routine.
Or, you can do what I do which is work the small muscle groups on a day opposite the large ones. Or, I’ll do small muscle group exercises and abs and stretch in front of the TV in the morning while watching the news.
For healthy knees and hips I also recommend you have a regular stretching routine that includes these muscles to make sure you keep them both strong and flexible, as inflexibility can cause additional problems for your hips and knees.
Do you strengthen and stretch your hips?
Tell me about it in the comments below.
*The TFL is found on the top, outside (anterolateral side) of your thigh. It helps with medial rotation and flexion of your hip helps lateral rotation of the leg at the knee, and stabilizes the hip and knee during standing and flexion.
**The small muscles I’m referring to here are: piriformis, quadratus femoris, gemellus inferior, gemellus superior, obturator externus, and obturator internus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus.