How to Improve the Body’s Most Important Muscle (That You Didn’t Know Existed)

How to Improve the Body’s Most Important Muscle (That You Didn’t Know Existed)

If you have a lame sense of humour, you may’ve chuckled at the term ‘gluteus maximus’, taking solace in the fact you managed to say ‘butt’ covertly.

For those that aren’t familiar with the gluteus maximus, well, it’s your butt. Or, we suppose it’s really the large muscle in your rear end.

But you probably haven’t heard of one of the body’s most important muscles that lies beneath: the gluteus medius.

The small, fan-shaped muscle connects the pelvis and the outer thigh, and is usually underdeveloped because most exercises don’t activate the area correctly.

gluteus-mediusUnderstanding and learning how to build strength in the gluteus medius is vital, as it controls motions of your pelvis when standing on one leg – a skill needed to run, jump, and kick – or, the ability to adequately perform in exercise or sport. Strengthening the gluteus medius also keeps the pelvis stable during exercise; an unstable pelvis can lead to excessive motion that generates knee, hip, or lower back pain.

Having said all that, you’d be wise to build the strength & endurance of your gluteus medius. But, since you’ve never heard of the muscle, we thought we’d share four exercises that will do exactly that.

These exercises are designed for you to keep at them until you’re too tired to maintain proper form. Try completing the exercises on two-to-three nonconsecutive days each week. Once you’re up to a high number of reps – say 40 to 50 – without fatiguing, alter the exercises to make them more challenging.

And remember, since you’ve never worked this muscle out before: prepare to be sore.

Clam Shells


Lie on your side, knees bent, keeping your knees and ankles together. Start by opening your top knee away from the one on the ground, keeping your pelvis stable. Next, lower your leg to its original position; repeat this motion 30 times, or until fatigued. Then, switch legs. Once you’ve mastered that, try the same exercises but with a resistance band tied around your legs for…um, extra resistance.

Related: Are You Overlooking this Vital Area of Fitness?

Side Planks


Again lying on your side, prop yourself up with your forearm, doing your best to maintain a straight line with your body. Lift both your hip & knees off the floor, holding the position for 30 seconds/until fatigue. Do the same on the opposite side. And don’t forget to keep your forearm under your shoulder, in order to prevent undue stress to your joints.

Single Leg Squats


Stand perpendicular to a wall in a way in which one of your hops is against it. Lift that leg off the ground with your knee bent at a right angle, with your though pressing into the wall. Squat on the opposite leg simultaneously. For maximum benefit, lower yourself slowly, with control. Form is critical for this exercise; ensure yours is correct by imagining each squat like you’re trying to sit on chair behind you. If your knees extend past your toes, you’re doing it wrong!

Related: Four Calorie-Torching Moves to Tone Your Legs and Butt

Fire Hydrants


Start on your hands and knees. Lift one leg out to the side, making your thigh parallel to the floor. Your knee should be at a 90-degree angle. At this point, you should look akin to a dog peeing on a fire hydrant. Hold the position for a bit, then slowly lower you leg back to its original position. Repeat the exercise 30 times on each side, or until exhaustion.

Following these exercises will almost guarantee you have the most robust, powerful gluteus medius amongst your friends and colleagues!

All exercise photos courtesy of Megan Brown.

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