Hip abductor muscle function is associated with running-related injuries. Previous electromyography (EMG) studies that reporting gluteal muscle activity when running have failed to account for the multiple segments of the gluteals, and have used surface electrodes, which may be contaminated by cross-talk of surrounding muscles.
This study aimed to: (i) develop EMG profiles of gluteus medius (GMed - anterior, middle and posterior) and gluteus minimus (GMin - anterior and posterior) segments during running; (ii) compare the activation patterns of each gluteal segment between running and walking; and (iii) compare surface EMG signals of running and walking to fine wire EMG signals of middle GMed.
Ten physically active and asymptomatic people participated. Gluteal segment activation was assessed during running and walking over 10 m. Muscle activation was assessed using bipolar fine wire intramuscular EMG electrodes and GMed activation was also assessed using surface EMG.
During running, all gluteal segments presented peak amplitude during the stance phase and anterior GMin presented additional second peak amplitude during the swing phase. All gluteal segments evaluated demonstrated consistently higher amplitudes during the stance and swing phases of running compared to walking. The mean amplitude assessed using surface EMG was 32-87% higher compared to fine wire during both phases for running and walking.
Greater activation of GMed segments during the stance phase and the increased anterior GMin activity during the swing phase indicate a potentially important role for pelvis and hip stabilization, respectively, which should be considered during development of targeted rehabilitation for running populations. The overestimated activation using surface electrodes highlights a limitation of using surface EMG during running and walking.