The gluteus medius is one of three gluteus muscles that make up the buttocks. Commonly known as the middle glute, its primary function involves stabilizing the pelvis, abduction of the hip joint, and the internal and external rotation of the hip in conjunction with the gluteus maximus and gluteus minimus.
While the gluteus medius is less talked about than other muscle groups, it’s still an important muscle group that must be stretched and strengthened through targeted gluteus medius exercises. Otherwise, you may experience injuries to your lower legs, back pains, and hip instability.
We previously talked about strengthening glutes through stretching in a previous blog. In this blog, we delve into further detail about gluteus medius strengthening by discussing its functions, weak hamstrings and glutes symptoms, and what exercises target gluteus medius muscles.
Functions of the Gluteus Medius
The gluteus medius is a large, thick, and radiating muscle that stretches from the ilium, the largest part of the hip bone, down to the hip. Its shape resembles that of a fan and is located on the upper side of the outside area of the buttocks. It has the following functions:
- The prime mover during hip abduction (main function).
- Maintain level hips while running or walking.
- Facilitates movement during hip flexion and extension.
- Assists in the internal and external rotation of the hip.
- Provides support in the horizontal plane abduction of the hips.
Weak Hamstrings and Glutes Symptoms
Just like any other muscle, the gluteus medius can grow weak when there is a lack of activity or when imbalances develop in the body. In these cases, the gluteus medius can become atrophyied and get used to a shortened position. However, weakness in the middle glute can result in various problems, including back pain, shin splints, and plantar fasciitis when allowed to persist.
Watch out for the following symptoms to determine if you have weakness in your gluteus medius:
- Chronic muscle pain in the joints and groin area
- Internal rotation of the knees
- Abnormal movement pattern due to weak abductor muscles
- Muscle tightness as the body compensates for the lack of hip stability and control
Strengthening Exercises for Gluteus Medius
Strengthening your gluteus medius is the key to eliminating common issues associated with weakness, preventing injury, and regaining mobility in your hips. The most efficient way of accomplishing this is through exercises that resemble its functions. The following are some examples of exercises for gluteus medius strengthening you can follow:
Lateral Band Walks
Wrap a resistance band around your legs just above your knees and stand with your feet hip-width apart. Then, do a slight squat while maintaining a straight back and a raised chin while your hands are in a praying position.
Take a slight step to your right in a way that your feet are now shoulder-width apart. Then, step laterally to the right with your left foot until your feet are back to their original position. Repeat this movement, alternating between going left and right.
Lunges and Single-Leg Lunges
To do a lunge, start by standing straight with your hands on your hips and feet hip-width apart. Then, with your right foot, take a mid-sized step backwards while bending your left knee, lowering your body until your right knee is just above the floor. Come back up and return to a standing position. Repeat the same motion with your left foot.
A single-leg lunge is slightly different and a little bit more complicated. Start by getting into the lunge position earlier. But this time, lift your right foot and place it onto a flat bench about one or two feet behind you while shifting your weight onto your left heel. As your foot rests on the edge of the bench, bend your left and lower your body until your right knee is just above the floor and come back up. Repeat the exercise on the same leg several times before going for the other side.
Squats and Single-Leg Squats
Squats and single-leg squats are classic exercises that engage and strengthen your gluteus medius. Start by standing with your feet about shoulder-width apart while raising your arms straight forward. Keep your chin up. Slowly lower your buttocks and squeeze your glutes while keeping your back straight and your knees level with your ankles. Keep lowering your buttocks until it forms a right angle with the floor. Then come back up until you reach the standing position.
A single-leg squat uses the same motion except that one foot is raised in front of you. Your position should resemble a stationary kicking motion. With one foot raised, slowly lower your body while bending the other knee. Then come back up. Perform about 10 repetitions before switching to the other leg.
The clamshell is a relatively simple yet effective exercise for your glutes. Begin by laying on your side on an exercise mat while keeping your body straight and resting your head on one arm while the other goes on your hip. Next, bend both knees to a 90-degree angle with your feet aligned with your body.
Lift one of your knees while keeping your feet glued together until your knee is perpendicular to the floor, then bring it slowly back down. Repeat about 10 times, then work on the other side. If the exercise doesn’t do much for you, use a resistance band around your thighs to add more tension.
Side-Lying Leg Circles
On an exercise mat, lay down on your side while making a straight line with your body. Depending on which side you’re facing, support your head with the arm that’s on the side of the floor. Next, raise your leg slightly above your hips and draw small circles in the air in the forward direction. Do this 10 more times, then repeat the same process with the other leg.
Just like with the clamshell, if this is too easy for you, simply wrap a resistance band around your thighs to increase resistance.
Strengthen Your Glutes By Seeking Professional Help
Having a sedentary lifestyle is one of the main contributors to the weakening of your gluteus medius. By staying inactive, these muscles become accustomed to remaining unstretched, which makes you more prone to injuries with sudden movements.
Fortunately, you can prevent this by performing these strengthening gluteus medius exercises. Perform these exercises regularly to keep your body in shape and glutes strong for maximum mobility.
If you want to learn more ways to maintain hip mobility and peak health? Get in touch with us today to schedule a consultation.