The gluteus medius is one of the most undertrained muscles in the lower body. Most gym lifters and athletes focus too much on looks and ego. Rather than train the muscles that support good long term joint health and proper mechanics, vanity gets the best of them. This is true with the upper body as well. I was one of those lifters when I was younger, but I want you to learn from my mistakes. This post is intended to briefly educate the readers on the importance of the gluteus medius muscle. Examples are also presented to get the gluteus medius stronger and your lifts stronger as well.
**Note** This article also applies to the gluteus minimus as well, since both muscles share similar functions.
What Makes The Gluteus Medius So Important?
Ever hear of:
- IT Band Syndrome
- Trendelenburg Gait
- Medial Knee Pain
- Low Back Pain
- Shin Splints
- Plantar Fasciitis
If you have heard of any of these, or have gotten any of these, then the gluteus medius may be one of the causes.
The problem with the musculature of the lower body is that you need to use your lower body whether you are an athlete or not. If you hurt your hand, then you can simply rest and not use your hand for a little while. Not the same story with your lower body. Unless your Van Wilder and can be taken around in a golf cart all day, chances are you need your legs.
The legs are part of a kinetic chain. From the foot to the hip, if one muscle, or area, has either an injury or an imbalance, then the entire leg will be affected somehow. This also includes the gluteus medius.
So what does the gluteus medius do? Simply put it is responsible for hip abduction, i.e. moving your thigh away from the body; also, internal rotation and external rotation of the hip.
Their most important function however is to stabilize the pelvis during unilateral motions. For example, stand up on both feet and place your hand on top of your hip bone. Now take one leg off the ground and maintain your balance. If you keep your hands on your hip you will feel a muscle group contracting, this is the gluteus medius.
They are making sure you pelvis stays level when you walk, run, jump, etc. If this muscle group is weak, then your pelvis will be unleveled. If you see people walking with this problem, then they have Trendelenburg Gait. Many of the other problems listed above can also happen as a result of weak gluteus medius muscles.
Gluteus Medius Exercises
Since we know know the importance of the gluteus medius muscle, it is time we learn how to strengthen it.
Before we further discuss this, it is important to know that most lower body strength exercises, such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, pistols, GHD raises, etc. already train this muscle. The problem with these exercises however is the tendency to raise the weight too quickly.
When form is sacrificed for weight, then the muscles are not trained properly. The strong foundation needed to transcend your own athletic abilities is diminished.
By using simpler movements, we can focus on proper form without worrying about how much weight to lift. For the most part the only tools you will need are mini-bands, a barbell and/or Mark Bell’s Slingshot Hip Circle. I’m not affiliated with Mark Bell, or Slingshot, in any way; but I have to say that this thing is awesome for targeting the hips.
Banded Side Walks
Place a band of some sort around your legs, just above your knees. Now spread your legs apart as far as you can. While keeping your toes pointed forward, keep your heels down and start moving to either your left or right.
It is important that you keep your hips level and you keep constant tension on the band. This will ensure that the gluteus medius will get trained appropriately. You could incorporate this into your squat or deadlift warmup, or you could do them as a workout of their own.
Don’t let the name confuse you, these are actually pretty simple. Take a resistance band of some kind, preferably a jump stretch band and wrap it around the outside of your feet. Now cross it in front of you and pull it up with your hands to keep tension. The band should look like an “X” when viewed from the front.
From here you simply want to bend your knees and hinge your hips back. Now side step the exact same way you did with the previous exercise. You will notice that you have to maintain spinal tension while keeping your hips square. This forces the glutes to function properly without any spinal flexion.
Hip Bridges With Band
Lay down supine and wrap a band around your knees. Bend your legs to 90 degrees and keep your feet flat. Drive through your heels and lift your hips up as high as possible. Be sure to keep your spine straight. Your shoulders should be in line with your hips.
I like this exercise because of how incredibly simple it is, plus it doesn’t require much space. To make it more difficult, place a barbell on your hips and add some weight. Bret Contreas has an excellent series of videos on youtube about this exercise.
As if squats were not tough enough. Place a band on your legs just above your knees and perform squats. You will notice how the band will try to make your knees cave in at the bottom.
If knee valgus is limiting your squat, then this exercise is a must for you. I typically like to perform them at the end of my squat workouts with about 50% of my working weight. To make this more difficult, hold the bottom position for a count of 5 seconds.
Banded Sumo Deadlifts
This is probably the toughest one of the exercises. Unlike the squat, which has a narrower stance, the sumo deadlift has an extremely wide stance. This places the band at near max tension. Depending on the type of band you have, the tension can be really high. Above all, make sure that you keep proper form. If you cannot, then you are using to strong of a band.
Just place a band slightly above your knees and perform a sumo deadlift with very light weight until your hips become accustomed to the band. Then it is ok to start adding weight slowly.
If you have been limited in the past with weak hips, then this exercise will help you out greatly. Olympic lifters will notice a more explosive “pop” in their hips at the top of the jumping position.