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Which exercises target the gluteal muscles while minimizing activation of the tensor fascia lata?

Tightness of the tensor fascia lata (TFL) and weakness in the gluteals is a common muscle imbalance seen in the lumbo-pelvic-hip region. One of the keys in helping to improve this imbalance is to strengthen the gluetal muscles with minimal activity of the TFL. The function of this study was to compare hip abductor muscle activity during selected exercises using fine-wire electromyography, and to determine which exercises are best for activating the gluteus medius and the superior portion of the gluteus maximus, while minimizing activity of the TFL.

Twenty healthy persons participated. Electromyographic signals were obtained from the gluteus medius, superior gluteus maximus, and TFL muscles using fine-wire electrodes as subjects performed 11 different exercises. Both gluteal muscles were significantly more active than the TFL in unilateral and bilateral bridging, quadruped hip extension (knee flexed and extending), the clam, sidestepping, and squatting. The gluteal-to-TFL muscle activation index ranged from 18 to 115 and was highest for the clam (115), followed by sidestep (64), unilateral bridge (59), and both quadruped exercises (50). So when applying corrective exercise strategies to strengthen the gluteus medius while minimizing TFL activity, the clam, sidestep, unilateral bridging and quadruped exercises would appear to be good exercises to utilize.

Complete reference: Selkowitz, D. M., Beneck, G. J., & Powers, C. M. (2013). Which exercises target the gluteal muscles while minimizing activation of the tensor fascia lata? Electromyographic assessment using fine-wire electrodes. Journal of Orthopedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 43(2):54-64. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23160432

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National Academy of Sports Medicine

National Academy of Sports Medicine

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