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Glute Activation Test for Athletes

THE ULTIMATE GLUTE ACTIVATION TEST: The knee limited single leg squat.

This simple test (video below) identifies compensation patterns and the participant's ability to overcome them.  This is a great test for anyone participating in sports or activities that require single leg power and control (running, cycling, basketball, football, soccer, raquet sports, climbing, etc).  I initially created this test to evaluate my progress towards reducing quad dominance, but I discovered that it can also reveal activation abnormalities in the deep hip rotators and core.  Since it does not require normal ankle mobility (dorsiflexion) or normal hip mobility (flexion), it's a great way to dissect your squat form and reveal imbalances that might have gone unnoticed.

  • Head, torso, knee does not touch the foam roller.
  • Hip, knee and ankle maintains anatomical alignment throughout the entire movement.
  • Thoracic spine remains neutral.
  • Scapula remains in neutral position.
  • Trunk maintains forward position.
  • Full depth
  • Head, torso or knee makes contact with the foam roller.
  • Hip swings medially or laterally.
  • Knee shifts medially or laterally.
  • Thoracic spine shows rotational and/or flexion compensation patterns.
  • Scapula shifts anteriorly to maintain balance.
  • Partial depth
Give the test below a try and let me know how it goes in the comments below.  Post your attempt on Instagram and tag me @VincentVergaraFitness for a free evaluation.

FIX HIP SHIFT with single leg squats and a foam roller! . [Hip Shift Series - 3/6] . Force yourself to do single leg squats with better form and finally correct those left and right hip imbalances contributing to hip shift. Use this drill to teach the hip stabilizers and quads to control anterior knee shift so that the glutes can do its job better. Anterior knee shift itself isn't necessarily bad, but unintentional, repeated knee shift caused by compensations can cause issues. In some cases, only focusing on ankle mobility will only provide temporary benefits because the real culprit is poor motor control. Teach the body to use the right muscle groups and it will reward you several times over in functional power. Only go as low as you can without touching the foam roller. As soon as you touch, don't squat any lower. Reward good form with more depth! Practice! Practice! Practice! . . Tag a friend who has hip shift! . . Don't miss out on future posts! Follow @vincentvergarafitness for free exercise tutorials.
A post shared by Vincent Vergara B.S. Kinesio.. (@vincentvergarafitness) on

A growing number of fitness professionals subscribe to the belief that if you have a long femur, your squat will always look a certain way and you should accept that.  Based on personal experience and witnessing first-hand, my athletes who pass despite having these characteristics, this is false.  Having a skeletal disadvantage only makes it more difficult to pass this test, but it's not impossible.  However, from a trainer's perspective, it can be overwhelming to create a program that addresses all the imbalances contributing to a failing score.

In a 2010 Personal Training work meeting, I witnessed a trainer perform a single leg squat, and it inspired me to one-day perform one myself.  I spent the next few years occasionally attempting to perform one, but always fail miserably.  Only when I seriously picked up cycling for the first time and discovered that my hamstring flexibility was terrible (evident from my non-existent aero position), it motivated me to work on everything wrong with my body.   For a year, I stretched my hamstrings regularly and (mistakenly) worked on my quad strength.  The hard work rewarded me with my first (but ugly) single leg squat.  My knee would shift forward, quads would burn and I could only manage to reach just below the knee.  When additional hamstring flexibility and quad strength no longer improved my form, I set out to find the next limitation.  Enter early 2016.

In 2016, I took my imbalances seriously.  I created a spreadsheet listing every muscle and joint motion of the body and measured my range of motion in each.  Afterwards, I tested my strength for each muscle using exercises proven by EMG studies to elicit the highest activation.  Based on the results, I would create a flexibility and strength program specifically targeting every single imbalance I had.  In a year's time, I successfully performed my first single leg squat with great, but not perfect form.  From 2017 to 2018, my form improved through practice, and it allowed me to progress from body weight to nearly half my body weight (65 lbs).

Working towards this goal helped me develop the training method I use today.  Now, in addition to evaluating flexibility and strength, I also look at motor patterns.  I realized that activating the right muscles at the right time (motor control) is more important than brute strength, and it's the reason why in late 2018, I successfully achieved my strength goal of single leg squatting 50% of my body weight (75lbs).  This precise method of training is why I can proudly guarantee results in one session.  When you know where the imbalances are hiding, it's easy to address them and reap instant rewards.


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