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Gluteus Maximus, Medius, and Minimus
The gluteus maximus is the largest and closest to the surface of the three gluteal muscles. This is the muscle that makes the buttocks look like it does. It is broad, thick and shaped like a quadrilateral.
The gluteus medius (smaller than the gluteus maximus) is also broad and thick and radiates out onto the outer surface of the pelvis. Part of it is covered by the gluteus maximus.
The gluteus minimus, as suggested by its name, is the smallest of the three gluteal muscles and is located directly beneath the gluteus medius (so therefore it is not seen in the drawing).
Origin and Insertion of these three muscles
As seen in the diagram above, the gluteal muscles all originate on the pelvis at various points and then insert on the femur (large thigh muscle).
Functions of the Gluteus Maximus, Medius, Minimus
Because of its size and power, the gluteus maximus is the primary hip extensor. It is not as significant in walking as it is in powerful striding and jumping. In addition to hip extension, it assists in lateral rotation of the hip.
The gluteus medius is (1) involved in abduction of the hip; (2) helps to stabilize the pelvis during movement, and (3) assists in medial rotation.
The gluteus minimus abducts and medially rotates the thigh.
What Injuries can occur?
Any injury to the glutes — and the pain is often continuous — will interfere with one’s ability to walk, sit, or stand. Professional runners most often experience injury to at least one of these muscles, usually the gluteus maximus.
Injury may be avoided with a slow, deliberate ten-or-fifteen-minute warm-up before running. Most runners develop a good routine before they sprint.
An appropriate stretching session after running may also prevent injury, but it should be noted that sometimes over-stretching can tear and rip the muscle fibres as well. It seems appropriate to repeat that old aphorism: “Moderation in all things.”
Exercises to Consider
- Ball Squat: If you have a large exercise ball and a wall, this is a good exercise for the glutes. Place the exercise ball between your lower back and the wall. Begin in a standing position with the feet at hip width apart. Go down into a squat with the ball rolling between the wall and your back. Stop when thighs are parallel to the floor. Hold and then rise again. Repeat 8-12 times. For extra resistance, you can hold dumbbells in your hands at the side, palms facing in.
- Resistance Band Squat: Place the resistance band under your feet with your feet hip width apart. Grab the resistance band and then squat (thighs parallel to the floor). Move the hands along the extension band and stop when you feel a tautness in the band. Then stand up. Return to starting position. Repeat 8-12 times.
- Dumbbell Dead Lift: Place dumbbells in hands with palms facing in and arms straight. You will maintain this position with your arms throughout the exercise. Bend the hips and squat so that your thighs are parallel to the floor and the dumbbells touch the floor. Keep the head looking straight ahead. Stand up. Repeat 8-12 times. 2
- Dumbbell Squat: This exercise is the same as the Dumbbell Dead Lift except you do not take the dumbbells to the ground. Place dumbbells in hands with palms facing in and arms straight. You will maintain this position with your arms throughout the exercise. Bend the hips and squat so that your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep the arms straight down, holding on to the dumbbells (which do not touch the floor), and keep the head looking straight ahead. Stand up. Repeat 8-12 times.
- Dumbbell Lunge: Place dumbbells in hands with palms facing in and arms straight. You will maintain this position with your arms throughout the exercise. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Take a long step forward with your right foot and flex your right knee to a 90-degree angle. Make sure your right knee is directly above your right foot. Go back to standing position and repeat with the left foot and leg. Continue until you have done 8-12 lunges on each leg.
- Knee Bend: Begin in standing position, hands on hips, with feet at hip-width apart. (For extra resistance, you may do this exercise with dumbbells held in your hands, palms in, hands straight.) Slightly bend the knees. You can go to a Quarter Knee Bend or a Half Knee Bend, but the thighs do not get parallel to the floor as they do in a squat. Do not allow the knees to go past the toe. Hold the slight knee bend for a few seconds and return to standing. Repeat 8-12 times.
Stretches for The Glutes
- Knees to Chest: Lie on your back and raise your knee to your chest, holding your arms around your knee. Turn your knee so that it’s trying to point to the opposite shoulder. Hold for several seconds. Then do it with the other leg.
- Hip Stretch: Lie on a mat on your back. Bend both knees and put your feet flat on the floor. Take the right foot and place it on the left knee. Let the right knee go outward. For a more intense stretch, lift the left foot slightly off the floor. For more intense, get your hands around your left thigh and hold. (Be careful not to over-extend your neck while doing this.) Hold the position for several seconds, then repeat on the other side. (Left foot on the right knee.)
- The Hip Joint
- Hip Replacement
- The Abdominals
- The Adductors
- The Deltoids
- The Erector Spinae: Spine Muscles
- The Forearm, Elbow, and Wrist
- The Hamstrings: Back of the Thigh
- The Hip Flexors
- Latissimus Dorsi: The Lats
- The Lower Leg: The Calf and the Shin
- Muscles of the Head
- Opposing Muscles
- Pectoralis Major and Minor: The Pecs
- The Adductors: Thigh Muscles
I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.