Ever find yourself getting an odd pinchy feeling in the front of your hip at the bottom of a squat or a clean? That 'can' be caused by the tensor fascia latae (TFL). This muscle runs from the top of your ASIS hipbone, across the hip joint via the iliotibial band. The TFL is primarily a trunk stabilizer; it tries to prevent your torso from moving as the lower body moves. However, the TFL also flexes and abducts the hip, and internally rotates the femur. This is where our problems lie.
Inability to activate the glutes can cause overactivity through the hip flexors, quadriceps and especially our friend TFL. Inability to activate the gluteal muscles can stem from a number of possible causes:
In terms of muscle, the saying “if you don’t use it you lose it” applies. If we don’t create a demand on or stimulate the muscle, it will become smaller and harder to engage. If you’re sitting on your gluts now, squeeze them together. If you can’t get strong, even activation on both sides, good luck getting activation in the gym.
Though we are biologically symmetrical, the demands we put on our body are rarely so. Our body’s response to these demands is to make specific adaptions increasing our ability to survive future stressors, thereby making the body asymmetrical. Aysmmetry can be a massive issue when it comes to the demands of training. Whether it be Sport, CrossFit, Powerlifting or Olympic Weightlifting, 90% of injuries both chronic and acute happen on an athlete’s non dominant side. Ie if you’re right handed the issues will mostly happen on your left side. This is because we put the same amount of load and weight during training through both sides, with one side normally lacking the stability, muscle bulk and overall neuro muscular development.
Pain is one of the major inhibitors of our glutes (in particular gluteus maximus). This is primarily a survival mechanism to help prevent further injury, as our glutes are major propulsion muscles.
If you’ve had a previous injury on one side of your body, your body will subconsciously move in a way to unload that area of the body. Unless you physically focus on strengthening the issue. Seeing a Physiotherapist at Evolutio is a great way to get that previous issue addressed and to optimize your performance in the gym.
If we are unable to activate our glutes, more specifically the gluteus medius, the TFL can begin to take over as a primary hip stabilizer. This manifests as pain in the front region of the hip and leads to slow movement throughout the squat or an inability to reach the bottom of the squat.
Now, how do we go about relieving these symptoms? One of the most effective ways to easing pain is to use a massage ball or, better yet, the Sceptre, to massage TFL in between sets of squats.
Using a massage ball through the glute medius will also help to reduce pain and increase glute activation. The ball helps to reorientate the muscular filaments to allow for better muscular contraction.
Once we have improved mobility in our hips, we need to look at how we go about maintaining this new pain free range. Strengthening the glute medius is going to be one of your priorities. Single leg glute bridges, band walks and band hip extensions will all help with this. Adding 2 sets of 15 – 20 reps of each exercise into your warm ups will improve your performance immensely, particularly if done before deadlifts, cleans, snatches and especially squats.