A study in 2013 showed that hip pain can reduce peak force in the glute max during activities like a bridge or hip extension. Hip impingement can be one of those conditions that causes the glutes to turn off
Some people have been trying to blame the hip flexors and too much sitting for this, but there is no good research to support the claim that tight, overactive hip flexors inhibit the glutes. Both can happen at the same time, but one is not causing the other. It’s more likely thta tight hip flexors and glute weakness are both the result of a back or hip problem.
Others suggest that sitting restricts the blood flow to the glutes. Not very likely, we have been build better than that!!! And again, no research to support it.
What research DOES show is that pain can cause certain muscles to be less effective. Its been done for knee pain and VMO “weakness” and Freeman and McGill did a study where they induced knee pain and tested muscles before and after. Research has also shown that this weakness, which is more a neural inhibition, can continue after the pain has been resolved!!
What do the glutes do?The gluteal muscles as a whole are responsible for:
- Hip extension
- Hip abduction
- Hip external rotation and internal rotation
- Raising the body up from a forwardly displaced position (think deadlift)
- Lifting the body out of the stooped position (think squat)
- Femoral, patellar and tibial alignment (knee pain? check the butt!)
- Stabilizing the lower back and sacroiliac joint via its attachment into the thoracolumbar fascia (Back pain? check the butt!)
- Keeps the pelvis level for walking and running
This is quite a list and therefore there are a lot of hip strengthening exercises. The hips are not always weak, but more likely inhibited and forgot how and when to turn on and off.
But they can feel and present as weak and we need to activate them. The Hip Thrust is a great exercise to get glutes going
Freeman, Mascia A, McGill S.Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2013 Feb;28(2):171-7. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2012.11.014. Epub 2012 Dec 20. Arthrogenic neuromusculature inhibition: a foundational investigation of existence in the hip joint.