In this video I discuss two often overlooked muscles that are key for leg stability, balance, and performance – the gluteus medius and the soleus. Watch and learn how to identify a glute medius or soleus problem and what you can do to improve any dysfunction. I also show three great exercises, from easy to advanced, to help improve leg stability.
Hey, this is Dr. Gangemi and in this Sock Doc video I want to talk about a couple really important neglected muscles that help to support and stabilize your entire lower leg as well as your knee and even your hip when it comes to moving freely and with a nice strong base of support as well as helping you move forward efficiently and effectively when you run.
So the first one I want to talk about is your glute medius. Most people know their glutes as their glute max, their butt muscle. But the glute medius is actually super important to stabilize your hip and even your knee when you’re standing on one leg. And since essentially running is a series of balancing from right leg to left leg and back and forth, the glute medius is really important when it comes to keeping your body really strong in this base of support. And if you stand like I am right now and put your hand right on the side of this front bone here of your pelvis and then you come down and touch over your greater trochanter which is your hip ball and socket joint there, and if you move your hip like this, your leg like this you can feel it.
Basically right in between that area is your glute medius. So your glute max is back here giving you power to push yourself forward and squat and all those things. But your glute medius is going to help to stabilize your leg as you stand on it so I can feel it contract as I come on one leg like this, as I stand on that same leg as well as ABduct. Bring your leg out like this and internally rotate your hip. So if you do this, if you bring your leg out and turn it in as in this motion, your lower leg, your whole leg essentially even your foot, you’ll feel your glute medius contract really well. And that’s how you can isolate it to the best of your ability.
If it’s sore on one side and not on the other, if you notice that, you know, as you bring this one up on one side it’s a little bit more weak then look for a trigger point in that area that you might be able to release and give you more range of motion or more support and stability on that side. Or especially if you’re having pain in the hip or in the knee then look for trigger points in the glute medius like I’ve taught you in other videos. Work it out in there. Hold it. Work it out in a circular motion or even just deep pressure for just 20 or 30 seconds in the glute medius.
So it’s deep in there. You’ve really got to dig deep in this one and see if that frees up some of the support and helps with any lateral knee pain. Because it works with your tensor fasciae latae which we talked about in the Iliotibial band syndrome video to support the outside of your knee. So even though your knee’s down here obviously think glute medius up here. Short little muscle, big time important for support.
The other important muscle that is often neglected which I talked about in the Achilles tendonitis video especially is your soleus. Your soleus is one of your two calf muscles coming from the back of your lower leg and eventually making up the tendon insertion behind your heel bone, your calcaneus as your Achilles tendon. So your soleus is more down here below the meaty part of your gastroc and where your calf sort of thins out. And you’re going to look for any trigger points in there by pushing up and in with your thumbs to see if there’s any tenderness in here.
Now your soleus pretty much plantar flexes your foot like so. So if you notice any problems with stability or even knee pain or pushing off and powering you forward whether it’s up a hill or up stairs, think calf but especially think soleus. And I want you to look for trigger points in there and as I’ve mentioned before, pretty much stay off the Achilles tendon if your Achilles tendon is a little bit sore. Go a little bit more up towards the soleus and look for trigger points in there to relieve anything in the Achilles.
But even more importantly I see a lot of soleus problems, calf problems causing knee pain. So if you notice that if you do a little bit of a light knee bend like this and your knee hurts anywhere but especially over the patella tendon in the front of your knee or your knee feels weak and unstable, don’t just necessarily look around the knee like I’ve addressed in the knee video. A lot of times it can be there, but actually you might have a problem in the soleus way down here or even in the glute medius way up here. So we’re thinking now way above in the hip and way below towards the lower leg and the ankle.
Your soleus is a highly aerobic type muscle. It’s anywhere from 60 to 90 percent or more aerobic muscle fibers. These are the slow Type I, highly oxygenated red muscle fibers that basically help support your or developed through aerobic metabolism. So the more you’re overtraining or the more you’re stressed out and training too hard and using anaerobic type energy systems, the more you can throw off that balance between aerobic and anaerobic that I talk a lot about on the Sock Doc site. And then you can end up with an Achilles tendonitis issue, knee pain, or all coming from a soleus issue on either the right side or the left side of the body. So think about your training and think about overall stress in your life whether aerobic metabolism and soleus issues.
So next I want to talk about a few little exercises you can do to help support and basically stabilize these muscles. And one real simple that you can do is basically just stand on one leg. I’ve shown this before with some ankle mobility and stability exercises but this one’s great for your glute medius here.
And if you’re really good at it the next thing you can do to take it up a notch is close your eyes as I am right now. And notice how I’m still staying pretty straight, little bit wobbly, but I’m not falling over like some people do. I should be able to do that for a minute and then even you can turn your head like this. And again I shouldn’t fall. I can turn it up and down and do all these different things and even do it with my eyes closed like I am right now. And there I go. So a little something to work on.
Do the same thing with my other leg. Left, right. And you can try both sides and see how you do and basically keep on bringing up the complexity of the exercise. So first with your eyes open, then your eyes closed, then turn your head, turn your head with your eyes closed, and see how well you can work that. You’ll really feel it in your glute medius and your soleus.
The other exercise you can do we’ve talked about before is a deep squat. That’s keeping your heels down, your back as straight as possible, shoulders behind your knees. If you tend to come forward like this you don’t want to go as low. If you’re having trouble getting that low you can put something underneath your heels like a book or a board to help keep your back straight.
Obviously if you have any pain in your knees don’t go down as deep, but you want to go as low as possible while keeping your shoulders behind your knees, as tall as possible with your heels on the ground. And ideally you should be able to come down this far, all the way, so you bottom out. And this is great for mobility of your ankles, your knees, and your hips.
So the last exercise I want to show you if you can do the single leg balances pretty well and if you can do the squat pretty well then I want you to try what’s called a single leg Romanian, some people call it a single leg Romanian deadlift, but an SLR. This one is great for the stability of your entire basically posterior chain. So your glute max, your glute medius, your hamstring, your calf, as well as it’s really good for balance. But it takes a little bit of work.
And what you’re going to do here is you’re going to stand on one leg. I’ll stand on my left first, then I’m going to contract the right glute first. And I want to bring my body down like a pendulum in a way, everything in line rather than sort of throwing my leg up and my torso down at the same time. And ideally I want to, so I’m balancing here on my left leg and I’m contracting this right and I want to bring it down like that. And bring this leg as straight up and flat as possible, okay?
So I can really feel this calf and this hamstring contracting and even the glute max and this glute max is staying straight. So I don’t need to hang out here that long. It’s harder the longer you do it. On the other side, so now I’m on my right leg and I’m staying flat like this, contracting that glute and I’m coming down like this nice and straight but I’m touching the floor. And again, keep your arms and your torso straight, your hips straight, and I should be pretty flat up like that. So do a few of those on each side until you’re basically going up and down and then you can do them with them with a weight a kettlebell if you choose to once you get good at these and you’re coming up and down like so. Up and down.
So you’ll feel that really well. It’s great to develop these muscles. You’ll be a much more efficient runner, much more efficient athlete regardless of what your sport is. And then if you notice some fatigue in there you can always check out the soleus, check out the glute medius or any other instability you might have in the area per the other videos that I’ve shown. Thanks for watching.