Want to Reduce or Stop Knee Pain While Running and Cycling? Then Get Your Butt in Gear!

Every now and then I like to pick up various running and cycling magazines just for a quick read. The first thing I usually look for is the exercise section to see what’s being recommended. One of the bigger issues for runners and cyclist alike is knee pain. I’ve learned through my work and the work of some of the strength coaches that I follow, that knee pain doesn’t always come from an issue with the knee.


Some time ago, renowned strength coach Mike Boyle posted two really good articles; “A Joint-by-Joint Approach to Training” and “Anterior Knee Pain – Site vs. Source”. To boil these two articles down he breaks it down to explain that body is a stack of joints. “Your knee,” Boyle Explains, “is caught between your hip and your ankle.”  He goes on to state that more times than not, chronic knee pain is a result of something happening somewhere else. The knee pain is the result, not the cause.

As a personal trainer, I’ve had quite a few clients (several competitive runners, triathletes and cyclist) come to me with knee issues and more times than not, the logic laid out by coach Boyle proved to be correct.
We’ve all heard of IT band syndrome, runner’s knee, etc. What I’ve found is that people with knee pain not stemming form an acute injury,  need to strengthen their glutes, in addition to stretching and foam rolling other areas. That’s right; they need to get their “Butts” in gear and working properly.  When I say getting your “Butt” in gear, let’s be clear that I’m not just talking about the part that we all see , you gluteus maximus. In addition to glute max, I’m talking about the smaller muscles that lie underneath (glute medius/minimus and piriformis) all of which serve various roles in stabilizing your pelvis and femur (that big bone between your hip and knee).

Lucky a few simple test and corrective exercise can help zero in on the problem and minimize or take away knee pain all together.

So what ar the test and what might they mean for you?:

Test #1 – Single Leg Hip Extension:
When someone tells me they have knee pain, the first test I do with them is the straight leg hip extension to test how well my client can get his/her glutes to activate. I first read about this test in an article by Nick Tuminello on Mike Boyle’s website. What I drew from this and other research on the topic is that weak glutes or glutes that don’t turn on when they’re supposed to, lead to knee pain simply because they don’t allow you to stabilize your femur when your foot hits the ground during running strides or in the down stroke in cycling. A femur that’s not stabilized allows the knee to move medially (side to side) causing increased stress on the knee.

This test enables us to test the level of glute activation one can achieve in the straight leg position. This same straight leg hip extension occurs in running and in cycling

Test Provided by Nick Tumminello

Starting Position

Begin on your elbows, with one leg fully flexed at the hip and the knee. This leg should be tucked up as far as possible into your body with your thigh in contact with your ribs.

The other leg should be extended straight back behind you and resting on the floor (see photos). The extended leg is the one that’s going to be tested.

Performing the Test

To perform this test, lift your extended leg off the ground as high as possible.
Be sure to keep that leg fairly straight and avoid bending it. A slight bend ( Additionally, do not allow your ribs to loose contact with your thigh on the opposite side.

If you can lift your extended thigh and knee at least one to two inches off the floor without struggling, you pass.

If you cannot lift your rear leg without shifting your body or deviating from the starting position, or you find yourself struggling to do so, you have some work ahead of you.

Test #2: Single Leg Squat Test:
Watch the video and try it. If you have trouble balancing or if your knee collapses in during the test, weak glutes may be the answer.


So What do I do next?…. Tune in to my next post for the answer

About Kelvin Gary

Florida native and NYC based Personal Trainer Kelvin Gary looks to help motivate, inspire and inform those looking to better their lives through fitness and healthy living.

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