The gluteus medius and minimus muscles lie beneath the bigger gluteus maximus. They both originate along the border of the ilium of the hip with gluteus minimus living under gluteus medius. They both insert onto the greater trochanter a knob of bone on the outside of the femur, or leg bone.
The gluteus medius and minimus help to stabilize the pelvis along with the tensor fasciae latae when standing on one leg. When you do tree pose in yoga the deep gluteal muscles kick into gear to support the body’s balancing act. They are also doing the same dance as the legs switch when we are walking.
The gluteus medius and minimus act as both internal and external rotators of the leg. When the hip is flexed they rotate the thigh externally and when the hips extend they assist with internal rotation. They also work to abduct the thigh pulling the leg away from the body. These two muscles are also essential to walking and standing well.
Here is a simple experiential exercise that I use to show people their inner workings.
- Stand with your feet together, close your eyes, relax your butt and feel how your body stands in space.
- The do the same thing with the feet hip width apart or wider.
- Stand in both positions for a number of times to feel the different way the inner body reacts.
With the feet together there is hopefully a feeling of movement within the pelvis as the gluteus medius and minimus doing their internal and externally rotating thing in search of a place of balance.
With the feet apart too far that all tends go away. The body stops dead in its tracks. People often report that this feels stable but stable isn’t what we are looking for. We want a dynamic body that lives in a quiet state of perpetual motion (as long as the heart beats).