You probably do squats for the same reason everyone does them—to develop a rounder, more sculpted butt. But if you watch the Olympic track and field competitions, you may also see a common denominator among the athletes—their strong squat-sculpted butts. So what's the connection to your glute work and your running times? Jordan Metzl, M.D., a sports medicine doctor who's also an avid runner, explained just how important strong glutes really are to running. Short answer: Really, really important.
"I see thousands of runners in my office every year with injuries, and I've found that a common mistake people were making was that they weren't strength training in a way to reduce their running injury, and they especially weren't strengthening their glutes," says Metzl.
Why are they so important? If your glutes are weak and don't engage when you're running, the bulk of the force from the ground hits your smaller, weaker hamstrings, which can result in calf injuries, hamstring strains, and Achilles tendon injuries. "Strengthening your glutes lets them share or reduce the load force of your running, loading it into the bigger, stronger glute muscles," says Metzl. "The glutes also generate more power, so you run faster and more efficiently." (Read up on the tips and tricks to Avoid Five Common Running Injuries.)
Metzl feels so strongly about booty work for runners that he even started a brilliant hashtag combo: #strongbutt, #happylife. He also came up with a name for what happens to people when they don't exercise their glutes and their running suffers as a result: Weak Butt Syndrome, or WBS. (Psst...Take a look at these 7 Ways to Become a Better Runner Without Running.)
To make sure you don't come down with a case of WBS, try Metzl's Ironstrength workout. It emphasizes plyometric moves that build the glutes and other functional muscles that work together when you run—try the hour-long workout once of twice a week. Want to get ease in a little more slowly? Metzl says exercises like plyometric jump squats, plyometric lunges, or burpees are a great start.