Strengthening Exercises for the Glute Muscles Range of Motion Physical Therapy Dublin

The group of gluteal muscles are made up of the Glute Maximus, Glute Medius and Glute Minimus, collectively these group of muscles Abduct, Extend, Internally & Externally Rotate the hip. The glutes also assist with some additional movements e.g. Trunk Extension, hip flexion in conjunction with the hip flexor, to name a few.

There are also a deeper set of muscles under the larger gluteals, the hip rotators. The hip rotators can also be referred to as the hip stabilisers (like the rotator cuff of the shoulder), the larger gluteal muscles work to move the hip while the smaller hip rotator group help to stabilise the hip during movement.


One of the main functions of the gluteal muscles is to stabilise the hip as we walk, run and climb stairs. This is done by contracting the gluteal muscles on our stance leg, which works against gravity and maintains a level pelvis, as the opposite leg swings forward.

In the case of someone with weak or misfiring glutes, they may have a trendelemburg gait, or waddle as they walk. This is normally more prevalent in elderly people who have to hike their hip up as they walk to ensure they do not trip or stumble.

weak glutes

Any weakness, muscle imbalance or inhibition of the gluteal muscles can cause a number of additional acute or chronic issues:

  • Hamstring Strain – glute maximus work in conjunction with hamstrings to extend the hip, any imbalance can lead to over loading the hamstrings
  • Low Back Pain – glute maximus works with low back extensors when lifting, any misfiring of the glutes can over load the low back extensors
  • Anterior Hip or Knee Pain – weak glutes can cause increased internal rotation of the leg causing a patella tracking problem. While also causing additional hip wear and tear during hip extension.
  • Lower Body Misalignment – As above weak glutes can cause increased internal rotation of the leg leading to ankle pronation and knee valgus.

By activating the gluteal muscles and strengthening them it will help to correct the muscle firing patterns and enhance the strength and performance of the group of muscles.

The following exercises have been found during EMG studies to be the best all round exercises to isolate and strengthen the gluteal muscles.

Based on EMG studies the following exercises worked the individual glute muscles as below:

Glute Medius:                                                    Glute Maximus:

  • Side Plank                                           Single Leg Deadlift
  • Unilateral Bridge                               Single Leg Squat
  • Lateral Step Up                                 Front Plank with Hip Extension
  • Superman                                           Superman
  • Side lying Hip Abduction

Of the studies the 3 best all round exercises for the Glute Maximus & Medius are:

Front Plank with Hip Extension: try to build up the time you can hold this position, maybe start with 10 sec in front plank, extend left hip for 5 secs and repeat with the right.

Front Plank with Hip Ext

Side Plank with Hip Abduction: try to build up the time you can hold this position, maybe start with 10 sec in side plank, as you get better abduct left hip for 5 secs and repeat with the right side.

Side Plank with Hip Abduction

And finally a single leg squat, there are a number of ways to do this exercise depending on your ability and injury. While performing this exercise it is important to ensure you are activating (turning on) your glute muscles.

glute exercise

I instruct clients to do this exercise on the last step of the stairs and once they have mastered activating their glute muscles and they are squatting correctly they can work their way into a deeper squat.

There are a number of glute strengthening exercises that can be done, those above maybe to difficult for you to start with. I have included some easier glute activation exercises in the video above and progress to the more advanced exercises.

If you are suffering from Knee Pain, Hip Pain or Low back pain, please contact me for a consultation and treatment at Range of Motion Physical Therapy Dublin.