In Part 1 and Part 2 of this Glute Workout Series, I talked about exercises to activate the glutes the most so you can really build them. In those exercises, we were mostly going after the gluteus maximus – the biggest muscle of your glutes.
For today, we’re going to talk a little more about the little guys, the gluteus medius and minimus. These ones don’t do as much heavy lifting as the glute max but they are hugely important for hip, pelvic, and knee stability. If this part of your glutes isn’t strong or doesn’t kick on when it’s needed, your pelvis might sort of “dump” down while you walk or run. You may even have issues where your knees cave inwards in exercises such as squats and lunges.
Glute med. and min. are also really important for helping you balance and stabilize in anything involving one leg at a time – such as running – and even under heavy load. Often people picture balancing exercises as just having to do with the ankle but everything up the chain helps too!
When these aren’t working as much as they should, other parts of the body may need to do extra work to make up for it. This can lead to injury down the road, particularly in the lower back, knees, anterior hip, and even calves or feet. For example, if your glutes don’t push you forward when you’re running or help you balance on one leg, your calves may start to pick up the slack on your “push-off” and over time you may develop plantar fasciitis.
That is NOT to say that glutes are the answer to all of your musculoskeletal problems! If you have an injury, don’t take this is a diagnosis, go get checked out by a clinical professional (duh). This is just to say if you’re struggling with any of these things or think you may want to do some more work to reduce your risk of injury, we’re going to go over some of these glute exercises for you to try!
In Part 1 and 2, we go over plenty of ways to work your glute max so these will be going over more your gluteus medius and minimus. Typically, these are worked by exercises that make you work moving your leg out to the side.
Let’s start with clams. They are a basic exercise to work on these that can be done with a band or without. The band is definitely helpful for adding feedback and resistance so you can really get your butt cooking.
How To: Lay on your side with your back rounded and your knees about 45 degrees from your hips with feet in line with your butt. Try to maintain a neutral spine position, meaning you’re not collapsing your spine into the floor. Where you have a natural curve in your side, you should have a “mouse-hole” or at least feel less weight on this part on the floor.
If you’re on your left side, use your left arm to cradle your head and place your right hand or elbow on the floor in front of you. The hand on the floor is to help keep you honest – no tilting your hips back to get higher in this clam. Keeping everything else still, keep your feet together while you move your top knee away from the bottom one. You should feel the side of your butt doing all of that work.
A classic butt-burning exercise that I LOVE. These will work all parts of your glute when done right. They are also a really great movement for teaching your glutes to stabilize during more dynamic movements.
How To: The mini-band can be above the knees, around the ankles, or looped around the arches of your feet. I typically have people start with a band around the knees because I find that most cheat less in that position. Technically, around the feet or ankles is harder but you really have to pay attention to form when it gets harder.
You’re going to hinge at your hips with a soft bend at the knees for the whole exercise. Think of a mini-deadlift position and not a squat position. Small steps are killer! Don’t take too big a step because it’s actually cheating. You want to keep tension on the band all the way through, be sure to lift your feet for deliberate steps and move from the hips. Keep your knees in-line with your ankles for the whole motion.
In the video, I show you both angles for all four directions. When you go side to side, don’t step in all the way and when you go forward and backward, be sure to keep your legs the same width apart the whole way through!
Tall Kneeling Belly Push
Okay, so these ones aren’t just about your glutes. They’re also about your obliques and a little bit of shoulder stability but I love them for syncing everything together. Tall Kneeling Belly Pushes are a great way to work anti-rotation (meaning = just resisting rotation). You can do these ones standing but I really like tall-kneeling position to help you focus on what’s happening at your hips and belly.
Banded Split Squat
This exercise is a great transitional one from double-leg to single-leg stance exercises. You still have the support from your second leg but all the work should be done by the front leg. This is great for cleaning up some wonky-lunges or just getting some extra glute work!
How To: You’ll need a mini-band up above your knees for resistance on this one. The mini-band will be working to pull your knees closer and you’ll be using your glutes to resist that motion. Step into a split-squat stance with all of your weight on the front leg, feet and knees hip-width apart, and just the toe of the back leg touching the ground. Bend at both knees to go down, being sure to keep knees away from each other and all of the weight through the heel or mid-foot of the front leg.
I hope you feel your butt cooking in all of these! Test out your stability before and after you try these. It can be really cool to see your single-leg balance or your lunges improve after trying a few of these. Let me know how they go and Happy Training!