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Glute Strengthening with Monster Walks: Knees Straight or Bent?

The resisted side stepping exercise, also known as “monster walks,” with its many variations, is an excellent way to strengthen the hip and gluteal muscles.  But which position is best, knees straight or bent?

For years, there has been a debate over the best position to perform “monster walks” to target the gluteals, without isolating muscles that are typically overused.

When choosing an exercise, you must consider both muscle activation and function.

Fortunately, a recent study highlighted the best monster walk variation to increase gluteal activity and also to remain very functional for sports.

The resisted side stepping exercise can be done with legs straight in an upright stance or in a bent hip and knee position (also known as the “ready position” in sport).  Many people believe that the bent-knee-and hip-position contributes to excessive TFL muscle activity and imbalance.  (The TFL muscle is found at the front side of the hip and, when overused, can cause hip and knee pain).   However, a recent study  in The Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy found that the bent-knee “ready position” actually stimulated significantly more gluteal activity and less TFL activity than in the straight leg position.

In addition to facilitating better muscle activation, the “ready position” replicates familiar postures that we see in a variety of sports, making it more functional as well.  Consider the athletic stance in golf, volleyball, basketball, soccer, snow-sports, martial arts, etc.  Athletes in such sports will adopt a similar “ready position” when preparing for movement.

Strengthening in sport-specific positions, as in positions that replicate movement patterns from a particular sport, is always preferred.

Therefore, to functionally strengthen the gluteal muscles, it is better to perform the resisted side stepping exercise in the bent-knee “ready position.”

We hope this helps clear up the confusion around monster walks!  Now you can feel confident in your exercise and know that you are improving functional hip strength!

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