First off, we want to talk to the person who came up with the name “monster walk.” Find a monster that walks like that… We dare you.
Nevertheless, the coveted monster walk exercise is a time-honored tradition for anyone looking to activate the hip and glute muscles. Rehab and sports medicine professionals have recently started to place an incredibly high value in training the hip extensors and abductors because of their role in the stability and function of the entire kinetic chain. The utilization of the monster walk exercise has exploded in return, and it’s time to set the record straight of just how to perform it the right way.
What does the research say about the monster walk exercise?
Although each variation is aimed towards a similar goal, the monster walk is essentially the “Choose Your Own Adventure” novel of exercises. It can be done with an elastic band around the knee, ankle or foot, and be done in an upright posture, squat or anything in between. So which way is best? We’ll let research do the talking.
“To date, five studies have analyzed the muscle activity of hip muscles with EMG during the lateral band walk,” said Phil Page PhD, PT, ATC, CSCS, FACSM in the Journal of Performance Health (2016). “Each study looked at different components such as band placement, posture, muscles and leg (moving or stance leg). The results from these studies have given us a pretty good idea of the best way to perform the lateral band walk exercise.”
Here’s what the studies tell us:
- The primary target muscle of this exercise, the gluteus medius, is activated anywhere between an average of 36-50% MVIC (maximal contraction) on the stance leg, compared to 19 to 33% on the moving leg.
- The tensor fasciae latae (TFL) is also activated during this exercise, which may be considered undesirable in patellofemoral rehab, particularly associated with muscle imbalance.
- Lower TFL activation is seen in the squat position than an upright position.
- The squat position yields higher activation than the upright posture while performing this exercise.
- The stance leg has more activation of muscles than the moving leg.
- The ankle or foot placement of the resistance produces more EMG than at the knee.
- Based on what we now know, here are the recommendations for performing the lateral band walk exercise with elastic resistance for preferential activation of the gluteus medius muscle, particularly in patients with hip abductor weakness. Several TheraBand products can be used for this exercise including the TheraBand Resistance Band Loop, TheraBand Tubing with Cuffs and TheraBand CLX.
- Place the resistance at the ankle or foot, rather than the knee (although the exercise may be regressed with knee placement).
- Perform the exercise in a mini-squat position with about 30 degrees of hip and knee flexion during movement. This provides more gluteus medius activation and less TFL activation.
- Step laterally away from the injured (weak) side. Don’t lead with the weaker hip; more muscle activity is seen in the stance leg.
- Don’t perform this exercise “side-to-side” in both directions, particularly in knee patients with hip weakness (Page 2016).
Once you integrate these tips into your clinical application of the monster walk, stop back and tell us what you think! Did your patients notice a shift in muscle activation? Did you achieve your rehabilitation or strengthening goals? We’d love to hear about your experiences!
This study was featured in an article originally published in the Journal of Performance Health written by Phil Page PhD, PT, ATC, CSCS, FACSM. Read the full article now or take a peek at the entire Journal here!
Page P 2016. What’s the best way to perform monster walks? J Performance Health 1(1):21-25
Berry JW et al. 2015. Resisted Side Stepping: The Effect of Posture on Hip Abductor Muscle Activation. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 45(9):675-82.
Cambridge E et al 2012. Progressive hip rehabilitation: the effects of resistance band placement on gluteal activation during two common exercises. Clin Biomech 27(7):719-24.
Distefano LJ, et al 2009. Gluteal muscle activation during common therapeutic exercises J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 39(7):532-40.
Selkowitz et al. 2013. Which exercises target the gluteal muscles while minimizing activation of the tensor fascia lata? Electromyographic assessment using fine- wire electrodes. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 43(2): 54-64
Youdas JW et al. 2013. Electromyographic analysis of trunk and hip muscles during resisted lateral band walking. Physiother Theory Pract. 29(2):113-23.