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Gluteus Medius: Small Muscle with a Big Purpose

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The Gluteus Medius (often called Glute Med for short) is small muscle, but serves a big purpose. It is often an overlooked muscle while strength training. Runners (or anyone for that matter) are often lacking strength in this muscle which can lead to a numbers of problems long term. Personally, my weak left Gluteus Medius is a constant battle. It has caused my Iliotibial Band pain off and on since I ran my 2nd marathon in 2011.

What is the location of the Glute Med?

It’s origin is on the posterior outer surface of the ilium and inserts on the lateral surface of the greater trochanter of the femur.

It’s just deep to the Gluteus Maximus, but superficial to the Gluteus Minimus.

What are the actions of the Glute Med?

The Gluteus Medius is responsible for

  • hip stability when walking & running
  • hip abduction
  • medial rotation of the thigh (anterior fibers)
  • lateral rotation of thigh (posterior fibers)

What problems can weakness in this muscle cause?

  • Iliotibial Band Syndrome
  • Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
  • Ankle Instability Personally

When the Gluteus Medius is weak, other muscles that control the same movement will compensate for the the actions and will often get overused. The most common muscle to compensate for a weak Gluteus Medius is the Iliotibial Band. The band itself isn’t really a muscle, but the origin of the ITB is the Tensor Fascia Latae. This will get tight cause tension in the entire IT Band as well (we will talk about IT Band Syndrome in another blog post).

The Gluteus Medius tends to get overlooked because it’s a small muscle, but by strengthening it, it can really do wonders in your running. I have included a few exercises below of how to proactively strengthen your Gluteus Medius.

Please remember, if you are having chronic pain currently- please seek out a medical professional. This is not meant to diagnose, but merely as a proactive strengthening exercise routine.

Exercises to Strengthen your Gluteus Medius

I would recommend picking 2-3 from the list below and do 3 days per week to see improvement in your Gluteus Medius strength. If that is overwhelming for you, just even adding 1 exercise a few days/week is great!

  1. Clamshells
    • I would recommend working up to 3 sets of 12, every other day. Start without resistance.
    • Make sure when you don’t spread your knees too far and go into hip flexion. You want just about 2 knuckle widths (your own) between your knees.
    • Variation
      • Once it is easy without resistance start adding a band just above your knee. You can adjust by tying it tighter or looser, using a higher or lower resistance band.
  2. Step ups
    • If you have a stair or stairs in your house you can do these.
    • Simply start with your side to the stair. Step up using the same leg the entire stair case. If you are doing one stair, step up with one leg and down with the other (do 3 sets of 12).
    • After you do one side repeat on the other.
    • Variation
      • Hold 2lbs, 5lbs, etc dumbbells in each hand to increase weight.
  3. Side Steps
    • You’ll be in a squat position for this. While in the squat, step to the side 10 steps and then return to the other direction remaining in the squat (you are facing forward, but stepping to the side).
    • Do 3 sets of 12 of these.
    • Variations
      • Add a resistance band by tying around legs.
        • For more resistance: tie just below knees and increase tension by tying tighter
        • For less resistance: tie lower, perhaps around ankles and tie looser
        • You can play around with the resistance to get to a point that feels just right: not to much, but not too easy! To strengthen a muscle you want to progressively overload, but not be in pain either.
      • Hold dumbbells for added weight

A couple yoga poses that will strengthen the Gluteus Medius is Standing Hand to Big Toe, Tree Pose, and Warrior III (Just to name a few). Really any of the balancing postures are going to engage the Gluteus Medius.

Let me know how these go for you! Do you notice a difference? Are you having less tightness in other areas now that you’re strengthening your Gluteus Medius? Or maybe you already have been working on this? Please share!

Until Next Time…Be the Change

Brooke

 

Cronin J, Keogh J, Whatman C, et al. 2008. Gluteus Medius: Applied Anatomy, Dysfunction, Assessment, and Progressive Strengthening. Strength and Conditioning Journal · October 2008. Volume 30(5):42-53). Accessed online 2015 December 10

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About the Author:

Runner, yogi, nursing student, wife and mother of 2 beautiful boys in Dayton, OH. I hope to educate, empower and inspire others live more mindfully and balanced lives!
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