Strength coaches, personal trainers and physical therapists commonly recommend the “Monster Walk” exercise for runners to improve their Gluteus Medius strength. The Gluteus Medius is an important pelvic stabilizer during the single leg stance phase of running. This lateral hip muscle maintains a level pelvis and ideal knee alignment, which are essential for optimal gait biomechanics. Weakness in this muscle results in pelvic-drop and knee cave-in, both associated with overuse running injuries. Since the strength of the Gluteus Medius muscle isn’t improved with running alone, it’s important to add Gluteus Medius strengthening exercises to your weekly training routine.
Here are 3 unique variations of the monster walk, each with different advantages.
Monster Walk Version 1: Mini-Band Around Knees
Unique Advantage: This version places the band closer to the hips, relative to the other versions, which allows for resistance to be applied through hip internal and external rotation. This version mimics the clamshell exercise, with more transference to running since this exercise is performed standing up on your feet.
Set-Up: Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart with a mini-band placed around your lower thighs. Bend your knees and squat down slightly. Place your hands on your hips and lean forward.
The Exercise: Turn your knees in and out 10 times, like doing a standing clam shell. Feel a contraction in the Gluteus Medius as you turn your knees out. After the 10th rep, keep your knees out to maintain tension in the band and concurrent activation of your Gluteus Medius, then take 10 x 1-inch steps forward while maintaining tension in the band and keeping your feet parallel. After the 10th step, turn your knees in and out another 10 times. Repeat this process 5 times.
Suggested Reps and Sets: Perform 4 sets.
Monster Walk Version 2: Mini-Band Around Feet
Unique Advantage: This version places the band further away from the hips and challenges the evertors of the foot. The evertors are the muscles on the outside of the foot, ankle and calf responsible for lifting the lateral side of the foot and for creating ankle stability.
Set-Up: Stand with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart with a mini-band placed around your feet. Bend your knees and squat down slightly. Place your hands on your hips and lean forward.
The Exercise: Take a step forward while moving your right foot toward your midline, then back out to the right. This will appear like a skating pattern. Repeat with your opposite foot. Keep your hips level and feet parallel as you walk. Don’t let you knees cave in throughout the exercise. Always think “knees out.”
Suggested Reps and Sets: Perform 4 sets of 30 steps/foot.
Monster Walk Version 3: X-Band Walk
Unique Advantage: This version utilizes a long circular resistance band if you don’t have access to a mini-band. The exercise also challenges the ankle evertors.
Set-Up: Stand on one end of the circular band with your feet parallel and shoulder-width apart. Hold the middle of the band and crisscross it in front of you. Next, pull your elbows to your hips to increase the tension in the band. Keep your knees straight and posture tall.
The Exercise: Take 15 x 1-inch steps forward while maintaining tension in the band — think “out” with each step— then take 15 x 1-inch steps backward. Keep your hips level and feet parallel. Don’t hike your hip up to step. You don’t need to lift your foot very high to take the step. The goal is to maintain tension in the band, which will keep tension in the gluteus medius muscle.
Suggested reps and sets: Perform 4 sets of (2 x 15 steps forward/backward).
Jon-Erik Kawamoto, MSc, CSCS, CEP is a Strength & Conditioning Coach with 15 years of experience. He’s a co-owner of JKConditioning, a health and fitness business in St. John’s, NL, Canada, a retired competitive runner and a long time contributor to PodiumRunner.