The Gluteus Medius is an often overlooked muscle that plays a vital role in maintaining normal function of the lower limb and pelvis. A weakness in this muscle will not only adversely affect your performance (an unstable pelvis will lead to an inefficient running style), but has also been implicated as a major contributing factor in many lower limb injuries.
The Role of Gluteus Medius
The actions of Gluteus Medius are abduction, internal rotation and external rotation of the hip, however, it’s most important function is as a dynamic stabilizer of the pelvis and lower limb. The role of Gluteus Medius during activities such as walking or running is to stabilize and hold the pelvis in a neutral position during single leg stance. Any weakness of this muscle will cause a dropping of the hip to the opposite side (Trendelenberg sign). For example, if the right Gluteus Medius is weak, when standing on the right leg, the left hip will drop (see diagram below).
Athletes may be able to compensate for this weakness in a couple of ways:
- By adducting and internally rotating their hip on the weak side (this is seen during running as the knee drifting in towards the midline of the body).
- By leaning their body towards the same side as the weakness.
How do I Strengthen the Gluteus Medius?
I have described below some of the basic Gluteus Medius exercises. Strengthening this much overlooked muscle should not only improve your performance, but also reduce your chances of developing many lower limb injuries.
Lie on your good side with your knees bent to 90 degrees and your heels, hips and shoulders in a line. Lying with your back against a wall may help you maintain your form. Raise your top knee toward the ceiling rotating at the hip and keeping your heels stationary. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds and do 10 to 20 repetitions.
Lying Wall Angel
Lie on your good side, against a wall, with your shoulders, hips and heels all touching the wall. Turn the toes of your top leg slightly upwards and lift your leg as high up the wall as it will reach. Hold your leg at the top of its arc for a second and then slowly lower it to the starting position.
Side Lying Leg Swing
Lie on your good side with your shoulders, pelvis and ankles all in line. Lift your top leg a few inches away from your bottom leg. Slowly extend your hip to bring your top leg behind your body. Next slowly flex your hip to bring your top leg in front of your body. Do not lower your top leg but continue extending and flexing your hip for the desired number of repetitions. Your upper body should remain stationary throughout this exercise.
Stand sideways on a step with one leg held free over the edge. Keep both hips squared forward and shoulders level. Keeping your standing leg (the one on the step) straight (no knee bending!), raise your free hip directly upward and then drop the leg down so that your beltline alternately tilts up and down.
Stand on your affected leg on a 2-4 inch step. Slowly lower your opposite leg down until it barely touches the floor and then return to start position. Ensure that your pelvis stays level and that the knee of your affected leg passes directly over your toes.
Single Leg Squat – Leg Behind Body
Stand on your affected leg and perform a single leg squat with your opposite leg passing behind your affected leg.
Flex your knees and hips slightly and start to walk sideways with small controlled steps. Hips and shoulders should remain parallel to the floor with only the lower limbs moving. Repeat in both directions.
Place the rubber band around your ankles. Get into the athletic position with bent knees, neutral lower back and looking forward. Walk forward with small steps, about 3-6 inches. Make sure your hips and chest are facing forward, don’t rotate your entire pelvis while you walk. After 20-30 steps, reverse the movement and walk backwards. As you get stronger you can bend your knees deeper.