These exercises and stretches tone and activate glute muscles
Medically reviewed by Theresa Marko, PT
Gluteus medius exercises can help you treat hip, lower back, or knee pain related to weakness in this area. The gluteus medius is a muscle located in the outer hip, and it is important during the stance phase of walking or running and in stabilizing the pelvis.
Research shows that the best gluteus medius exercises involve hip abduction (when the hip is moved away from the body's center line) and single-limb support (when standing on one leg and the other is moving).
Examples of gluteus medius exercises include:
Hip hitch (pelvic drop)
Isometric standing hip abduction
Side-lying hip abduction
Standing resisted-hip abduction
Single-leg dead lift
In this article, learn 10 gluteus medius exercises to help you strengthen this muscle and be pain-free.
Gluteus Medius Muscle Anatomy
The gluteus medius muscle has a fanlike shape and connects the pelvis to the femur (thigh bone). Every muscle has an origin, insertion, and action. These terms refer to where the muscle attaches to bones and what physical movement engaging the muscle helps you perform, as follows:
Origin: Lateral (outer) surface of the ilium (part of the pelvis)
Insertion: Greater trochanter (a large knob of bone on the upper thigh bone)
Action: Hip abduction (moving away from the body's center), rotation, hip stability, walking, running, single-leg standing
At-Home Gluteus Medius Exercises
Below is a list of 10 exercises that activate your gluteus medius muscles. Each exercise includes step-by-step instructions and tips for modifying movements to make it either more accessible or more challenging.
If you struggle with your balance, hold on to a railing or a wall for support. People with injuries, pain, or a prior surgery should consult a physical therapist for tailored exercises to support their goals.
Hip Hitch (Pelvic Drop) Exercise
The hip hitch (sometimes called pelvic drop) exercise is one of the most effective exercises for building gluteus medius strength and stability.
This exercise activates all three portions of the gluteus medius muscle. Here's how to do it:
Stand with your supporting leg on the edge of a step, with the other leg off the step and suspended in the air.
Tilt your pelvis so the suspended leg lowers but doesn't touch the ground.
Lift your pelvis so the suspended leg lifts.
Keep the supporting leg's knee straight, and engage the glute muscles on the side of your hip to help with stability.
Repeat 10–20 times before switching legs.
Do not bend your knee at all during this exercise. Let the movement come from tilting your pelvis.
To make the exercise more challenging, add an ankle weight to the suspended leg or hold a dumbbell on the side of your suspended leg.
Isometric Standing Hip Abduction
Isometric standing hip abduction is a physical therapy exercise that improves hip stability and reduces hip pain. "Isometric" refers to holding a pose and keeping a muscle the same length throughout the exercise. This exercise targets the gluteus medius muscle's anterior (forward) and posterior (backward) portions.
Find something stable to push against, such as a wall, to perform this exercise:
Stand sideways by a wall.
Bring the leg closest to the wall straight out to the side so the side of your foot is touching the wall.
Press your foot into the wall for five to 10 seconds, keeping both legs straight.
Bring your lifted leg back to standing.
Repeat five to 10 times on both sides.
Lightly touch the wall with your hand to assist with balance. Work toward increasing the time you hold your leg pressed into the wall. See if you can work up to 40-60 second holds.
The single-leg bridge exercise is effective at activating the gluteus medius muscle, according to a 2020 systematic review. It is performed in the following way:
Lie flat on your back with both knees bent and your feet planted a foot away from your bottom.
Lift one leg into the air, keeping it straight and at a 45-degree angle from the ground (so your knees are next to one another).
Lift your hips off the ground while pressing your planted foot and hands into the ground for support.
Slowly lower your hips an inch above the ground while keeping your leg lifted.
Repeat 10–20 times before resting and switching lifted legs.
To make this exercise more accessible (particularly if you have knee or low-back pain or have less core strength), keep your lifted leg bent slightly at the knee rather than straight. Add an ankle weight to your lifted leg to make this exercise more challenging.
Side-Lying Hip Abduction With Hip Internal Rotation
Physical therapists frequently prescribe the side-lying hip abduction with internal rotation. It is one of the best exercises for engaging the gluteus medius and working on hip stability and strength. Because this exercise involves lying on your side, use a mat or rug for a softer yet supportive surface.
This exercise targets the leg on top because it has to work against gravity. Here's how you can do it:
Lie on your side with your legs straight and hips stacked, with one arm bent under your head for support.
Rotate your hips slightly forward.
Internally rotate your top leg. Do this by pointing your toes toward the ground, so your top foot's big toe touches the side of your bottom foot rather than the feet resting against one another.
Lift your top leg up and slightly back at a diagonal, keeping the knee straight and the leg internally rotated.
Slowly bring your lifted leg back down.
Repeat this 10–20 times on each side.
You must get the positioning correct for this exercise to target the right muscles. Consult a physical therapist for help with positioning and exercise prescription if you are having trouble.
Loop a resistance band around your thighs to make it more challenging.
The lateral step-up exercise involves stepping sideways up onto an elevated surface. This exercise targets both the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles on the leg that steps up.
Here's how to perform this exercise:
Stand sideways next to a step or stable block.
With the leg closest to the step, step sideways up onto it.
Bring your other leg with you, but do not put weight into it; let it hover as you stand on one leg.
Step back down with your outer leg first, then bring your other leg to meet it.
Repeat 10–20 times on each side.
The height of the step increases this exercise's difficulty. Aim for 12- to 24-inch heights, or whatever feels best. Hold dumbbells in both hands or a weighted barbell across your shoulders to make this exercise more challenging.
Resisted Side-Step (Lateral Band) Walk
The lateral side step exercise targets the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus because it uses the hip abduction action (moving the hip away from the body's center).
Adding resistance via a resistance band makes this exercise more challenging. Do it as follows:
Loop a resistance band around your lower legs, slightly above your ankles.
Position your feet slightly greater than your hips' width apart at a distance where you can feel the resistance band is taut and secure but not too challenging to hold.
Slightly bend your knees and hips, and consider clasping your hands together at your chest or in another comfortable position.
Step one leg to the side, as far as you can comfortably do with the resistance band.
Step the other leg to meet it so you are back in your base position, with your feet slightly wider than hip width apart and the resistance band remaining taut.
Repeat stepping to that side for 10–20 steps, or as far as you can manage. Rest and repeat on the other side.
Because this exercise involves multiple steps to the side, you will need a larger space or a hallway in which to do it comfortably. You could step in circles if you are working out in a smaller area.
You can do this exercise with or without a resistance band. Using a stronger resistance band will increase the challenge of this exercise.
Standing Resisted-Hip Abduction
Standing hip abduction, mainly when adding resistance via a band, is an excellent way to activate the gluteus medius muscle.
You will need a tube resistance band with handles for this exercise. It's performed as follows:
Loop the handle of the resistance band around one of your ankles.
With your other leg, stand on the tubing of the resistance band.
Keeping both legs straight, abduct (move away) your leg with the band looped around it to the side.
Slowly bring the leg back down to standing.
Repeat 10–20 times, and then perform it on the other side.
Try to stand up straight and use slow and controlled movements.
You can adjust the difficulty of this exercise by where you stand on the band. The closer you stand to the handle, the more resistance, and vice versa. Modify this exercise by using no resistance band at all.
Clamshell exercises help target your outer hips, specifically the gluteus medius muscle.
Here's how to do clamshells:
Lie on your side with your knees bent and your feet stacked on each other. Place a bent arm under your head for support.
Open your hips by lifting the knee of your top leg toward the ceiling. Keep your feet stacked together.
Once you reach the end range of motion, hold here for a few seconds.
Slowly lower your lifted knee back down to your lower knee.
Repeat 10–20 times on each side.
Keep your torso stable and still during this exercise, and don't let your chest open toward the ceiling.
To increase the challenge of this exercise, consider placing a looped resistance band around your upper thighs.
Below are instructions to perform this exercise:
Stand with your feet next to each other. Slightly bend your knees and hips, and extend your arms for balance support.
Lift one leg off the floor and extend it straight in front of you. Keep your knees in line.
Bend the knee of your standing leg and slowly lower your hips down and back. Keep your back neutral and your shoulders back, with your gaze straight ahead.
Straighten the knee of your standing leg and return to standing.
Repeat 10–20 times on each side.
Try to keep the knee of your standing leg centered over the ball of your foot—don't lean it too far forward, inside, or outside. Start with shallow squats and work toward deeper squats.
Hold a weight in both hands close to your chest for an added challenge.
Single-Leg Dead Lift
The single-leg dead lift exercise targets the gluteus medius in your standing leg. It can help with balance, coordination, and hip stability.
Below are instructions for how to do this exercise.
Stand up straight with both feet planted on the ground next to one another and your hands at your hips.
Slightly bend one knee, which will be your standing leg.
Extend your free leg slightly back, keeping your knee straight.
Flex at the hip of the standing leg while maintaining a straight back.
Lean your torso forward while letting your free leg lift back, maintaining a straight line between the torso and the leg.
Lift back to center.
Repeat 10–20 times on each side.
Be sure to keep your free leg's toes pointed down toward the floor during this exercise. It is also important not to compensate by bending or rounding your spine during this exercise. Try to maintain a straight back and feel a stretch along the back of your leg, even if this means you don't lean as far forward.
Hold onto a barbell or free weights to make this exercise more challenging.
Weak or Painful Gluteus Medius
A weak gluteus medius can cause low-back pain and sometimes knee pain. This is due to muscles in those areas overcompensating for the gluteus medius.
People with sedentary lifestyles, who sit a lot during work or are generally inactive, may also develop weak and painful gluteus medius.
What Physical Therapy Exercises Help With Gluteus Medius Pain?
You may be referred to a physical therapist if you've recently had hip, low back, or knee surgery. People with pain in those areas, exercise-related injuries, or general functional difficulties may also see a physical therapist for help.
At your first session, your physical therapist will perform an assessment. This will include:
Reviewing your medical history
Asking about your symptoms, pain, and activity level
Observing how you walk and move
Testing your range of motion and strength
Based on this assessment, your physical therapist will provide various interventions, including exercise prescription, modalities, and physical manipulation.
The physical therapy exercises may include hip hitching, clamshells, single-leg bridges, and more. However, the exact exercises, repetitions, frequency, and resistance will be tailored to your unique situation.
How to Prevent Injury During Gluteus Medius Exercise
The best way to prevent injury during gluteus medius exercise is to consult a licensed physical therapist or personal trainer who can educate you on correct positioning.
As you exercise, consider positioning, such as where your hip or toes should be pointed. Exercising in front of a mirror can help draw awareness to where your body is in space. Don't overload yourself with weights or resistance bands too soon.
The gluteus medius muscle is located in your outer hip. Weakness in the gluteus medius is associated with low back pain, knee pain, sedentary lifestyles, and running injuries. The above exercises can help rehabilitate the gluteus medius or prevent future injuries.
Read the original article on Verywell Health.