5 Best Exercises for Gluteus Medius Strength

Rachel Long PT, DPT

The gluteus medius (glute med) muscle is a part of your buttock muscle. It is located on the outside of your hip. It is an important (and often forgotten) pelvic stabilizer and hip abductor (acts to raise leg away from midline).  If the glute med is weak, it can cause increased tension on your back during weight bearing activities (such as walking and running) and can contribute to low back pain(Cooper et al., 2016; Philippon et al., 2011), knee pain, and balance problems.  

Side-lying Hip Abduction

Begin lying on your side with your top leg straight and your bottom leg bent.  Engage your glute med muscle to lift your top leg up toward the ceiling, just high enough to feel this muscle activating, then slowly lower it back down. Repeat 2 sets of 10 repetitions per side.  Don’t let your hips roll forward or back

Clamshell

Begin lying on your side with your knees bent and your hips and shoulders stacked.

Engage your abdominals and glute med muscle to raise your top knee up toward the ceiling while keeping ankles together, then slowly return to the starting position. Repeat 2 sets of 10 repetitions per side.

  • Make sure to keep your core engaged and do not roll your hips forward or backward during the exercise.  If your pelvis starts to move backward, the glute med muscle is no longer activated/engaged.  SMALL MOVEMENTS are key!

Lateral band walk

Tie a resistance band around the ankles.  Bend your knees slightly and move into a half-squat position to activate the gluteus medius.  Make sure to keep your knees over your ankles and butt back to isolate the glute med (think of sitting your butt back into a chair).  Step to the right while maintaining the squat position, making sure to keep your hips level (don’t lean your body over to the right).  Repeat to the left.  You don’t need a large area to perform this exercise.  You can alternate taking one step to the right, then one step to the left, or you can take multiple steps walking down the length of a hallway.  Repeat for 10 steps to each side. 

Pelvic drop

Stand sideways with your right leg on the bottom step (or stepstool) and the left leg hanging down.  Slowly lower the left side of the pelvis toward the floor, while keeping your knee straight.  Then return to a level position.   Repeat 20 times on each leg. 

Unilateral bridge

Lay on the floor or on your bed with feet flat and knees bent.  Lift one leg until it is even with the opposite bent knee.  Next, bridge up, lifting your buttocks off the ground, making sure your hips remain level.  Slowly control motion down.  Repeat 20 times on each leg.

These are just a few of the countless exercises to strengthen the glut med that can help with low back pain, knee pain, or balance problems.  All exercises should be pain free- if you are having pain with an exercise, most likely you are not stabilizing in your core or you are using other muscles to compensate.  A physical therapist can help you correctly perform exercises with detailed cues tailored for your particular problem, or can give you modifications to make an exercise easier for you. Contact us here to schedule your appointment for your one-on-one evaluation and individualized treatment plan.     

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