Effective Exercises for Gluteus Maximus and Medius Muscles

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It has been said that glutes muscles are the strongest muscles our body has.  Your performance or movement could be getting better if your glutes muscles, especially gluteus maximus and medius, can be used well during movement or activity. 

Additionally, strengthening your glutes muscles can prevent injuries to your legs, knees, and ankles. In this post, I am going to introduce effective and efficient exercises for your glutes that you, as an athletic trainer or clinicians, can utilize for patient’s rehab or athletes’ training without special equipment or training tools.  

>>References for this articles:


An Examination of the Gluteal Muscle Activity Associated with Dynamic Hip Abduction and Hip External Rotation Exercise: A Systematic Review

Systematic review for glutes muscles using EMG (Electromyography) that shows the level of electric activity of the muscles 


The Role of Glute Muscles

The main role of Gluteus Maximus is to extend and externally rotate your hip joint. It also works as hip abductor. 

Gluteus Medius plays a role in abducting and internally and externally rotating your hip.

Many researches have shown that activating those glute muscles not only improves your performance, but also prevents injuries to your lower body.

【The detail functions of glute maximus and medius】Superior fibers of gluteus maximum have a function of hip abduction. Anterior fibers of gluteus medius internally rotates the hip. Posterior fibers, on the other hand, of the gluteus medius externally rotates the hip.  


Performance Improvement & Injury Prevention

What kinds of roles do the glutes muscles specifically play during activity or movement? 

  • Stabilize the hip joints
  • Maintain correct alignment of your hip and knee joints

If your glute maximus and medius could not work during movements, your hip or knee joints might be injured due to the fact that hip adduction and internal rotation would frequently occur.

Additionally, the systematic review has reported that strength reduction of hip abduction makes your low-back and hip and knee joints work too much, which leads to injuries. For example, if your glutes muscles could not be activated to abduct your hip, your pelvis would tilt laterally to compensate the movement of hip abduction. Consequently, your quadratus lunborum works too much and might become tight.


High Correlation Between Glute Muscle Weakness & Knee Injuries

Researches have shown that glute muscle weakness, especially hip abduction and external rotation, is likely to causing knee pain or injuries (ex. patellofemoral pain syndrome). 


High Correlation Between Glute Muscle Weakness & Low-Back Pain 

The systematic review has also reported the high correlation between glute muscle weakness and low-back pain. 


Weakness of Hip Abductors Causing Various Injuries

Many studies have revealed that weakness of gluteus medius working as a hip abductor brings about several injuries. Some examples of high risk injuires are the following:起きる可能性の高いケガと言われているのは以下の通り。

  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome
  • Chronic Ankle Instability
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

All of them take long to heal…


“Electromyography” Revealing Effectiveness of Exercises


Let’s briefly talk about how to find articles and researches (this section is for athletic trainers or medical professional.) .

If you want to find great exercises for ◯◯◯ muscles, you should look for and read some studies/researches conducted using electromyography. Electromyography is a device measuring the level of electric activity during muscle contraction. 

Basically, it has been said that the higher level the electric activity occurs, the better exercises the muscles are strengthened. 


【More Details】

The level of electric activity during muscle contraction effective for muscle strength is the exercises showing 40-60% of maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC).  The electric activity of more than 60% can be said very high activity. The electric activity, on the other hand, showing less than 25% is the level of muscles working for joint stability. 


Recommended Exercises for your Glutes

Now, 5 effective glutes exercises that showed high electric activity are introduced.

Basically, the level of glutes muscle activity gets higher during exercises performed by weight bearing compared to non-weight bearing. Weight bearing exercises give a load to your ankle, knee, and hip joints; therefore, glutes muscles are necessary to be activated. 


1)Lateral Step-Up

Six studies have investigated the electric activity level of gluteus maximus during lateral step-up exercise. The average level was “49.6% (±15%). 

The muscle activity of gluteus maximus rises up more with a higher step or bench. One of the studies in the systematic review showed “113%” of MVIC of gluteus maximus with an 18-inches step box. 


2)Crossover Step-Up

Crossover Step-up exercise showed the highest activity level of gluteus maximus on the systematic review.  

You can perform this exercise one leg each, even if this movie below shows alternatively. It would be better if you could hold dumbbells, like the movie shows, that load you more. 

Likewise, in the same manner as 1) Lateral Step-up, using the higher step, box, or bench loads to your gluteus maximus more. Just make sure that there is no change on your posture during this exercise.  

Both lateral step-up and crossover step-up exercises not only causes very high electric activity of gluteus maximus, but also activates the gluteus medius at a high level as well. The gluteus medius has to work during single-leg position because stabilization of your pelvis and knees is necessary to keep balance. 


3)Standing Hip Abduction with Mini-Band @ Ankle

This is a great exercise for your gluteus medius. Using mini-bands with higher resistance activates the muscle more. One study recorded “101% (±7%) of MVIC during this exercise. 


4)Side Bridge Abduction

Now, non-weight bearing exercises are introduced. 

Basically, exercises performed by weight bearing position are more effecitive for glutes muscles. However, exercises performed by non-weight bearing position are necessary after surgery or when you have some pains on your legs. 

The exercise “Side Bridge Abduction” shown below is the one that the gluteus medius was most activated in the systematic review. 


5)Side-lying Hip Abduction

This exercise “Side-lying Hip Abduction” is also effective for your gluteus medius. 

A variety of ways for this exercise are instructed on the web; however, I believe that sliding the heel on the wall enables your gluteus medius to work very well. Pushing the wall while sliding your heel up activates your gluteus maximus. 

In my opinion, lying on your side 4-5 inches away from the wall and putting your heel to the wall creates hip extension position. The hip extension position makes your gluteus maximus activate easier. Moreover, in the movie above, the lady’s toe is directed towards the floor a little bit. However, I would recommend your toe to be directed towards the sky a little bit. Bringing your toe up a little bit makes your hip externally rotate, which turns your Tensor Fascia Latae muscle off as well as turns your gluteus medius on. 



Your performance, such as sprint speed or jump height, will be improved if your glutes muscles can be used effectively. Furthermore, as stated above, I feel from my experience as an athletic trainer that people with chronic low-back pain cannot activate their glutes muscles well. 

Please try the recommended glutes exercises out!!!


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