Your hips and glutes look great in the mirror, but can they dance? How about climb a mountain, ski a mogul field or play baseball? When your personal trainer performs a hip and glute strength assessment, she determines the answers to these questions. These assessments go beyond the realm of body fat, weight and body measurements. They identify your athletic potential as well as your vulnerability to back and lower-body injuries.
Although your core muscles take all the credit, your hip and glute muscles also play a key role in pelvic stability. You've probably seen a runner with weak glutes. Since her gluteal muscles can't support her pelvic alignment, she leans forward. To compensate, her back arches, causing her to literally drag her butt behind her. This faulty running alignment puts enormous stress on her ankles. A glute and hip assessment would identify the problem. From there, her personal trainer would devise a corrective exercise program. Some of these assessment exercises might appear in the corrective program.
The Chair of Death
Jay Dicharry, author of "Anatomy for Runners," gave this assessment tool its ominous name. To perform the test, stand upright in front of a chair. Place your feet underneath it under it, and allow your knees to touch the front of the seat. Extend your arms out in front of you, bend your knees and squat down into the classic public restroom maneuver. If your knees hit the chair, your glutes are not functioning correctly.
Single Leg Glute Bridge
Your hip abductor -- or outer thighs -- and hip external rotator muscles also contribute to pelvic stability. The single-leg glute bridge assesses their strength. Lie supine, with your knees bent and your feet flat one the floor, hip-width apart. Peel each spinal vertebra away from the mat until you reach bridge. From bridge, lift and extend one leg. Put it down, then lift and extend the other leg. When performing this exercise, hips that sway side-to-side like Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday" to JFK indicate weakness in the hip abductor and rotator muscles.
Hip Abductor Tests
Your personal trainer might use either of the following two methods to test your hip abductor strength. From a side-lying position, she might press down against your top leg as you attempt to lift it. An inability to do so without shifting your pelvis out of alignment might indicate weak hip abductors. The Trendelenburg test for gluteus medius weakness also tests your hip abductors. Performed in an upright standing position, it involves lifting one foot a few inches from the floor. If the hip of your standing leg shifts to one side, you have a gluteus medius and hip abductor weakness.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.