Fight "Dead Butt Syndrome" With These 9 Gluteus Medius Exercises

Fight "Dead Butt Syndrome" With These 9 Gluteus Medius Exercises

Unlike the highly celebrated gluteus maximus that forms most of your butt’s shape and size, the gluteus medius rarely gets the spotlight. This muscle appears above and outside the rounded part of your glutes and is responsible for abducting your legs (raising them to the side). But if you’ve ever experienced “gluteal amnesia” (aka “dead butt syndrome“), you understand the importance of working gluteus medius exercises into your routine.

Learn more about the benefits of gluteus medius exercises and which ones are most effective.

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Why You Should Target Your Gluteus Medius

“The problem for most people isn’t necessarily a weak gluteus medius, but rather an inactive one,” says Trevor Thieme, CSCS, Openfit’s senior director of fitness and nutrition content.

Most of us spend our days sitting hunched over a keyboard, which places our hip flexors in a perpetually shortened state. Thanks to a phenomenon called “reciprocal inhibition,” the muscles on the other side of the joint — in this case, the glutes, including the gluteus medius — remain stretched or relaxed. “As a result, your butt essentially shuts off,” says Thieme.

How much damage can an offline gluteus medius do? A lot, considering everything the gluteus medius does (read more below). Without a properly functioning glute med, other areas of the body have to pick up the slack, resulting in pain and dysfunction. Athletic performance issues often pop up first, says Adrian Miranda, PT, DPT, OCS, physical therapist at Windsor Physical Therapy in Brooklyn, New York.

Take, for example, a competitive swimmer. “Your time can depend on how fast you get off the blocks. If you have weak gluteus medius muscles, your knees can collapse in, and that can cost you seconds,” Miranda says. Over time, that movement compensation takes a toll on the knees and lower back, causing pain. “Loss of seconds now turns into loss of practice time, competition, and eventually daily activities like walking,” he says.

 

9 Gluteus Medius Exercises for Strength and Shape

Designed to wake up your lazy butt, these strengthening moves include a mix of Miranda’s and Thieme’s favorite weighted and unweighted glute med exercises. Aim to target your gluteus medius muscles at least two to three times a week.

1. Glute Bridge

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent, your feet flat on the floor, and your arms at your sides. This is the starting position
  • Engaging your core, squeeze your glutes, and lift your hips until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees.
  • Pause, and then slowly return to the starting position.

 

2. Dumbbell Squat

  • Stand with your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing each other. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your chest up, back straight, and core engaged, push your hips back and lower your body until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
  • Squeeze your glutes as you push through your heels and return to the starting position.

 

3. Clamshell

  • Lie on your left side with your legs stacked and your hips and knees bent 45 degrees.
  • Rest your head on your left arm, and place your right palm on the floor in front of your chest. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your heels together, your core engaged, and left knee on the ground, raise your right knee.
  • Pause, and then return to the starting position. Do equal reps on both sides.

Make it harder: Loop a resistance band around your legs, just above your knees, before assuming the starting position.

 

4. Lateral Band Walk

  • Loop a small resistance band around both legs just above your knees. Stand in a quarter squat with your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart, creating tension on the band. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your knees bent and core engaged, step to the right with your right foot. Follow with your left foot, maintaining tension on the band.
  • Take one more step to the right, and then two steps left to return to the starting position.

 

5. Dumbbell Deadlift

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a pair of dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing back. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, push your hips back and lower the dumbbells to mid-shin level, keeping the weights close to your body.
  • Pause, and then return to the starting position, thrusting your hips forward as you raise your torso.

 

6. Dumbbell Step-Up

dumbbell step up demo | gluteus medius exercises

  • Stand facing a bench or box that’s around knee height, holding a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length by your sides, palms in.
  • Place your left foot on the middle of the bench so that your hip, knee, and ankle are all bent 90 degrees. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your chest up and core engaged, push your body up with your left leg until it’s straight (don’t let your right foot touch the bench — drive it up towards the ceiling at the top of the movement).
  • Pause, and then lower your body back to the starting position. Perform equal reps on both sides.

 

7. Side Leg Lift

side leg lift demo | gluteus medius exercises

  • Lie on your left side with your feet and hips stacked, your legs straight, and your head resting on your left arm. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your core engaged, slowly lift your right leg as high as you can without rotating your hips.
  • Pause, and then lower your right leg back to the starting position.
  • Complete all of your reps, switch sides, and repeat.

 

8. Opposite arm-leg single-leg straight-leg deadlift

single leg deadlift demo | gluteus medius exercises

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in your right hand in front of your right thigh.
  • Shift your weight to your left leg, and lift your right foot a few inches off of the floor behind you. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, push your hips back and lower the weight until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor, raising your right leg behind you.
  • Pause, and then return to the starting position.

 

9. Lateral Step-Ups

dumbbell lateral step up gluteus medius exercises

  • Stand with your right side facing a bench or box that’s about knee height, holding a pair of dumbbells at arms’ length by your sides, palms facing in.
  • Place your right foot on the middle of the bench. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your chest up and core engaged, push your body up with your right leg until it’s straight (don’t let your left foot touch the bench).
  • Pause, and then lower your body back to the starting position. Perform equal reps on both sides.
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