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Gluteal Muscle Forces during Hip-Focused Injury Prevention and Rehabilitation Exercises


Purpose: This study aimed to compare and rank gluteal muscle forces in eight hip-focused exercises performed with and without external resistance and describe the underlying fiber lengths, velocities, and muscle activations.

Methods: Motion capture, ground reaction forces, and electromyography (EMG) were used as input to an EMG-informed neuromusculoskeletal model to estimate gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus muscle forces. Participants were 14 female footballers (18-32 yr old) with at least 3 months of lower limb strength training experience. Each participant performed eight hip-focused exercises (single-leg squat, split squat, single-leg Romanian deadlift [RDL], single-leg hip thrust, banded side step, hip hike, side plank, and side-lying leg raise) with and without 12 repetition maximum (RM) resistance. For each muscle, exercises were ranked by peak muscle force, and k-means clustering separated exercises into four tiers.

Results: The tier 1 exercises for gluteus maximus were loaded split squat (95% confidence interval [CI] = 495-688 N), loaded single-leg RDL (95% CI = 500-655 N), and loaded single-leg hip thrust (95% CI = 505-640 N). The tier 1 exercises for gluteus medius were body weight side plank (95% CI = 338-483 N), loaded single-leg squat (95% CI = 278-422 N), and loaded single-leg RDL (95% CI = 283-405 N). The tier 1 exercises for gluteus minimus were loaded single-leg RDL (95% CI = 267-389 N) and body weight side plank (95% CI = 272-382 N). Peak gluteal muscle forces increased by 28-150 N when exercises were performed with 12RM external resistance compared with body weight only. Peak muscle force coincided with maximum fiber length for most exercises.

Conclusions: Gluteal muscle forces were exercise specific, and peak muscle forces increased by varying amounts when adding a 12RM external resistance. These findings may inform exercise selection by facilitating the targeting of individual gluteal muscles and optimization of mechanical loads to match performance, injury prevention, or rehabilitation training goals.