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Jogging engages your glutes and burns up body fat, but how and where you jog determines how well it accomplishes these goals. Your postural alignment, along with the relationship between your gluteal group and its surrounding muscles, also influences the efficiency of jogging as a butt-muscle toner. Just a few minor tweaks to your jogging workout will encourage greater glute activity.
Butt Muscle Function
As one of the human body's strongest muscles, your gluteus maximus serves as a prime mover in jogging. It performs hip extension, or moving the leg behind your body. When your leg moves forward into hip flexion, your gluteus maximus performs an eccentric or lengthening contraction, in order to decelerate, or slow down the movement. Your gluteus medius, located in the upper, outer portion of your butt, stabilizes your pelvis and maintains a neutral pelvic alignment as you shift your weight from one foot to the other. Faster jogging and jogging on uneven surfaces also increases gluteus medius activity, according to an article published in the "Journal of Experimental Biology."
Treadmills Versus Mother Nature
Treadmills effectively burn calories and reduce body fat, but do little to shape and develop your butt muscles, explains sports medicine expert Dr. Len Lopez. During jogging, your quadriceps muscles extend your leg out in front of you, and your hamstrings and gluteals propel you forward. When you step forward on a treadmill, your quads engage, but the treadmill belt pulls the leg back for you. Since the treadmill does the work, you never stimulate your glutes the way you do when jogging outdoors, argues Lopez.
Trail running gets a bad rap. Some physical therapists blame the uneven outdoor surfaces for ankle sprains and hip pain. Christopher McDougall, author of "Born to Run," disagrees. McDougall told "The New York Times" that running on natural surfaces was part of the human evolutionary process. He argues that modern runners wear high-tech shoes and run on artificial surfaces, which alters the biomechanics of running. Varying your surfaces helps restore natural running form, advises McDougall. Running on softer surfaces also creates a small depress with every heel strike, fitness journalist Peta Bee told "Women's Running." This means your glutes must work harder to push upward and forward for the next step.
Head for the hills for greater glute engagement, suggest authors of a study published in the "Journal of Applied Physiology." The researchers compared level and uphill running, and reported that hill training increased activity in the gluteus muscle activity. Caveat: By triggering a syndrome called reciprocal inhibition, excessively tight hip flexors might impede uphill running technique. Your hip flexors, which connect your thighs to your pelvis, are the antagonists of your gluteus maximus. When overworked, they take over and leave your butt muscles quiescently underworked. Hip flexor stretching combined with glute-strengthening exercises correct this imbalance, and adds butt power to your jogging.