The glutes are the biggest muscles in your body. They are very important.
One key role they play is stabilising your knee and ankle joints.
Learn to use your glutes properly and you’ll prevent injuries. Its essential knowledge that you need to know.
Its All About Proper Alignment
The glutes stabilise your hip to maintain proper alignment. This basically means keeping your knee and ankle in the correct position whilst you’re moving. It ensures a safe landing with every step, jump and stride that you take.
Ever twisted your ankle/knee from taking an awkward step or jumping up and landing wrong?
There’s a good chance that your glutes were dormant (or your proprioception is lacking). Active glutes would have kept your leg in proper alignment.
You need to learn to move with proper alignment by activating your glutes.
What Is Proper Alignment?
Toes, knees and hips facing forwards, with the soles of your feet facing the floor. It starts at the hip, controlled by the gluteus medius. Here lies a common problem:
Many people have a weak or dormant gluteus medius; it is not active enough when they walk or run. So when they move at speed or change direction quickly, they are taken out of proper alignment.
To understand this, stand on one foot. Hold your other foot a few inches in front of you, relax your hip muscles (gluteus medius will be switched off). This is the position of poor alignment.
Running with poor alignment increases your chances of landing awkwardly and getting anything from a minor sprain to a torn ACL.
Pay close attention to the subtle but crucial change when the gluteus medius is activated. Your knee and foot will now point forwards instead of outwards.
Firing the gluteus medius creates proper alignment and stops your knee/ankle from twisting.
Using Your Glutes To Share Your Body Weight
Another way that your glutes prevent injuries is by helping your ankles and knees to carry your bodyweight.
Do you have a flat butt? This is a good indication that your movements are mostly produced by your ankle or knee joints and not your hip. Your calf and quad muscles are doing all the work whilst your glutes get lazy and weak.
Over time, you’re going to over-work your ankle/knee. That means more wear-and-tear which you don’t want. Especially during activities like running.
Using your glutes will lighten the load on your ankles and knees, making them last longer.
Are You Using Your Glutes?
Stand in front of a wall with your big toes touching the wall. Keep your feet flat on the ground. Slowly squat down until your knees are at a right-angle. Struggling? That means you’ve got poor hip mobility. You haven’t learnt to use your gluteus maximus.
A study by Janda et al. found that people with a history of ankle injuries have significantly less activation of the gluteus maximus. The gluteus maximus contains the peroneal nerve which stabilises the ankle.
An inactive gluteus maximus means a less stable ankle!
The gluteus maximus helps you balance as you run. If yours is weak, you’re at high risk of an ankle sprain.
Now lets test your gluteus medius.
Try doing some hip abductions as demonstrated in the image. Lie on your side and slowly lift your leg up and down 15 times using only the side of your hip.
It should be as easy as breathing. If you’re struggling, you’re prone to poor alignment.
Get your glutes switched on and strong to lessen the wear and tear on your ankles/knees and prevent injury
Gluteal muscle activation during common therapeutic exercises – Distefano LJ, Blackburn JT, Marshall SW, Padua DA, . J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 
Hip abductor weakness in distance runners with iliotibial band syndrome – Fredericson M, Cookingham CL, Chaudhari AM, Dowdell BC, Oestreicher N, Sahrmann SA. Clin J Sport Med. 
The role of hip muscle function in the treatment of patellofemoral pain syndrome – Tyler TF, Nicholas SJ, Mullaney MJ, McHugh MP. Am J Sports Med. 
Load application to the sacrotuberous ligament; influences on sacroiliac joint mechanics – Vleeming A, Van Wingerden JP, Snijders CJ, Stoeckart R and Stijnen T. Clinical Biomechanics. 
Diagnosis and treatment of movement impairment syndromes – Shirley Sahrmann. 
Re-activating and strengthening the gluteal muscles – Bram Swinnen.