The gluteus medius is buried in your buttocks, under the larger, more prominent gluteus maximus. From there, it functions as a key player in hip abduction, or movement of the leg away from your body's midline. It also keeps your hips level when you're poised on one leg. Without the gluteus medius, your pelvis would sag and your hip would drop on the non-supported side. Including the gluteus medius in your overall strength training program might reduce your risk of injury. The fibers of this deep-lying glute are often weak in people who develop knee or hip pain.
Target the gluteus medius two or three times per week, leaving at least one 24-hour day of rest between workouts. Complete one or three sets of six to 12 reps of every exercise; if you can complete more than 12 repetitions easily, increase the amount of resistance. For exercises with light to moderate resistance, rest for 30 to 60 seconds between sets.
Warm up with 10 minutes of brisk walking or light jogging before progressing to strengthening exercises. When you break a light sweat, perform a set of dynamic high-knee lifts or traveling lunges to further stimulate your glutes and prepare them for activity.
Perform one or more compound exercises that effectively target the gluteus medius, as well as other muscles. Glute bridges, inverted flyers, mountain climbers, "Frankensteins" and single-leg squats fire up the gluteals -- including the gluteus medius -- and also benefit other major muscles and joints.
Target the gluteus medius more specifically with straight-leg raises. From a side-lying position with your hips stacked, work deep gluteal muscles with a standard, isometric side lift; raise and hold the top leg for 30 to 60 seconds. For a more dynamic exercise, extend the top leg in front of you, forming a 90-degree angle with the rest of your body. Relaxing the working knee slightly, raise the leg about 12 inches off the floor with the toes directed downward. Hold the position briefly and then lower the leg. Repeat up to 12 times for a total of one to three sets. Roll to your other side and repeat the exercise. For added intensity, wear ankle weights.
Work with a resistance band. Loop the band around both legs -- either at the ankles or just above the knees -- knotting the ends of the band together securely. Bend your knees, hinge forward slightly at your hips and walk laterally. Travel 10 steps to the right and then to the left. Alternatively, attach one end of the band to a stationary surface and the other end to your right ankle. Extend and abduct the leg -- moving it outward and slightly behind you -- against the band's resistance. Hold the rear extension briefly and then lower the leg. Repeat up to 12 times for a total of one to three sets and then switch to your left leg.
- Follow your workout with a glute stretch, or massage your buttocks with a foam roller to prevent soreness, relieve tension and preserve flexibility.
- Always use proper form. Keep your abdominals engaged throughout every exercise to stabilize your back. If you're unable to maintain proper form, stop.
- If you have iliotibial band syndrome or another condition that affects your hip or knee, speak to your doctor, physical therapist or trainer about the advisability of particular exercises. Glute-strengthening exercises might exacerbate your condition.
- Expect to feel mild discomfort when exercising your glutes. If an exercise causes outright pain in your buttock or hip area, stop immediately.
- BeginnerTriathlete: Member Case Study -- Gluteus Medius and ITB Syndrome
- Postsurgical Orthopedic Sports Rehabilitation: Knee & Shoulder; Robert C. Manske
- American Council on Exercise: Hip/Thigh Workout
- NY SportsMed and Physical Therapy: Side Leg Raisers
- Mike Reinold: The Best Exercises for the Gluteus Maximus and Gluteus Medius
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images