The gluteus medius is one of the most important muscles in the body. However it doesn’t get enough credit. The gluteus medius, or commonly called the glut med or side butt, is the muscle that sits at the side and back of your hip. You can activate it by lifting your leg out to the side, but this is not its only function. The glut med is also responsible for keeping your hips level during standing, walking, running…basically all weight bearing tasks. When it’s weak, you will either display a “trunk lean” or “hip drop” in your weight-bearing movement patterns. Sometimes these poor movement patterns are quite obvious, but other times they are not as drastic. During walking, the glut med prevents abnormal “sidebending” forces on your spine and protects against downward forces on your hips. If the glut med is weak and not doing these tasks, you could develop back pain, hip problems, or even get ankle sprains. During running, the glut med is the primary muscle that prevents large valgus (downward rotational) forces on your knees and ankles. So if it is not working properly, runners can develop ITBand syndrome, ankle sprains, stress fractures, knee pain, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis…the list goes on. How do you know if yours is weak? To test it, stand on one leg while looking in the mirror. Are your hips uneven and not level? Are you slightly leaning to one side? If so, you have a weak glut med. Most of the population does, so don’t feel bad if you do. But this doesn’t mean you should live with a weak glut med…. do something about it!
Since we spend most of the day sitting or only moving in a forward motion, we don’t really exercise the glut med properly. To prevent injury and to improve the strength of your glut med, try these three exercises:
1. Sidely leg lift: Lay on your side. Pull in your abs without holding your breathe. Slowly lift your top leg without letting the leg swing forward. Complete 2 sets of 20 on each side.
2. Side plank with clamshell: Prop yourself onto your forearm, elbow, and knee. Pull in your abs and keep your waist level. Slowly lift your top knee while keeping your ankles together. Complete 2 sets of 10 on each side.
3. Single leg stance with tubing hip abduction: Place an exercise, band around your ankles. Keeping your abs tight, bring one leg out to the side. Keep your hips and shoulders level. Repeat 2 sets of 20 on each side.