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Every junior high child learns that another funny way to say butt is ‘gluteus maximus’. Since then, how many of us actually have learned that there are other muscles in the ‘gluteus’ family? One of my favorite muscles that is often overlooked and when weak, causes problems for endurance athletes, is the gluteus medius. A quick introduction to the muscle: It begins from the top of our hip bone (the ilium more specifically) and inserts at the top of the femur (great trochanter). See the red fan shape highlighted on this skier below!

Fan shows where the muscle lies

The main action of this muscle is abduction and internal rotation of the leg. The key to this muscle is that when it is weak, pain will appear in other locations and gait can be effected. From my experience with athletes in the athletic training room, a big symptom of low back pain is gluteus medius weakness. Not of all of us have athletic trainers at our disposal to test if our gluteus medius is weak, but sometimes it is the culprit for pains we experience. A test, called “Trendelenburg’s Sign” is often something we look for.

To start, look at yourself in the mirror. Place both hands on your hips, and then bend one leg at the knee behind you. When standing on one leg, do your hips drop slightly? Or can you only hold yourself up for a few seconds before you have to drop down? If you are unsure just by looking another way to test is to do an exercise sometimes referred to “fire hydrants”.  Click the link here, and at the 30 second mark is a demonstration on how to perform the exercise. Try to do 30 on each leg slowly. If you are unable to complete the exercise, you could have glut med weakness! It can be corrected as long as you strengthen it and the muscles around it!

3 Responses to “The Little Muscle that Could: Gluteus Medius”

  1. therock Says:

    A big THANK YOU for this as I am pretty sure it describes me!

  2. Dan S.,PT Says:

    The Gluteus Medius is a needed muscle for skiing. Unfortunately, this video demonstrates WEAK Gluteus Medius and weak core stabilization, as evidenced by her body twisting, torso side flexing, and foot dropping down (hip externally rotating). A better test and more ski-specific exercise is while sidelying, with your hip in neutral (straight), lift your leg toward the ceiling. If your hip “hikes” toward your arm pit or if your hip flexes (knee comes forward) to accomplish the move, the muscle is weak. Frequently, the muscle is being neurologically inhibited (weakened) by a tight, strong muscle(s), usually a hip flexor. A P.T. can help evaluate such muscle imbalances.

  3. Annika Says:

    Thank you for your corrections Dan!