Weakness in the gluteus muscles tends to be a cornerstone of many injuries in the lower extremities and back.  It is important to strengthen those muscles to take pressure off of joints and correct an individual’s biomechanics.  But what exercises are the most efficient in accomplishing this?

I found an article that assessed 12 common gluteus maximus and medius muscle exercises.  They wanted to figure out which exercise(s) will be most beneficial for those muscles.  They found that the Side-lying Hip Abduction Exercise activated the gluteus medius muscle the most out of all the other exercises and the Single Limb Squat and Single Limb Deadlift activated the gluteus maximus more than all other exercises.

Side-lying Hip Abduction

(Keep the knee extended and the hip in a neutral position while lifting the leg up to about 30 degrees)

Side-lying hip abduction


Single Limb Squat

(Stand on one leg and slowly lower by bending the hip, knee, and ankle until the opposite hand touches the foot that is on the ground without rotating the trunk)

Single Limb Squat

Single Limb Deadlift

(Stand on one leg with the knee flexed to 30 degrees and slowly flex the hip and trunk until the opposite hand touches the foot on the ground without rotating the trunk)

Single Leg Deadlift

(Click the link below for access to the article)

Gluteal Muscle Activation During Common Therapeutic Exercises

Study Design: Experimental Laboratory Study

Purpose:  To quantify and compare gluteal muscle activation across 12 common strengthening exercises of varying difficulty.

Methods: The study consisted of examining 21 subjects who were physically active (exercising 60 minutes at least 3 times a week), no pain, no history of ACL injury, and no history of lower extremity surgery.  They used surface EMG electrodes to measure gluteus medius and gluteus maximus muscle activation.  The subjects completed 8 repetitions of each of the 12 exercises in random order.  The exercises consisted of 3 non-weight bearing (clams with hips at 30 degrees, clams with hips at 60 degrees, and side-lying hip abductions) and 9 weight bearing (single limb squats, single limb deadlifts, lateral band walks, forward lunges, side lunges, lunges with rotation, forward hops, side hops, and hops with rotation).

Results:  The Side-lying Hip Abduction Exercise produced significantly greater gluteus medius activation than the 2 clam exercises, lunges, and hip exercises.  The Single Limb Squats and Single Limb Deadlifts had significantly greater gluteus maximus activation (also, equal activation of gluteus medius and gluteus maximus muscles) than the lateral band walks, clams, and hop exercises.

Limitations: Some of the limitations consisted of the potential for cross-talk between muscles during the surface EMG assessment.  Also, the dynamic movement of the hop exercises could cause EMG activity variability.  Finally, there were no non-weight bearing hip extension exercises assessed.