The gluteus medius muscle has a number of different functions. It acts as an abductor of the hip which means it helps to pull the leg away from the body. Also when the hip is flexed it works as an external rotator. As I wrote a couple weeks ago many antomy books also ascribe internal rotation to its anterior or front portion.
The gluteus medius has another essential function which is to stabilize the pelvis when we are walking and running. It is called upon to stabilize the pelvis when the pelvis is in a neutral position and we are on one leg. Gluteus medius weakness hampers successful walking patterns.
The picture below is an excellent graphic showing how weakness in the right gluteus medius will cause the left hip to lower when standing on the opposite leg.
In teaching yoga I have spent years watching the effects of a weak gluteus medius during standing balances such as Tree Pose. Some students do tree and their pelvis remains level through both sides of the pose, but for many students standing on one leg causes the opposite hip to fly up high in the air.
Today’s exercises take me back to the first days of physical therapy that I underwent when I was recovering from a number of knee surgeries. I am going to post a series of gluteus medius exercises over the next week but I wanted to start with the basics.
Strengthen Gluteus Medius Weakness: The Clamshell
- Lie on your side.
- Bend the legs to approximately 90 degrees making sure one knee is lying directly above the other.
- Your heels should be lined up with your back.
- Lift the top knee leg upwards while keeping your feet connected.
- Return the leg to the starting position.
- Do a set of ten on each side.
Strengthen Gluteus Medius Weakness Side-Lying Leg Raise
- Lie on your right side with your left leg straight and your right leg bent slightly forward with your right heel in line with the back of the pelvis.
- You can have your head on a pillow or use the right hand under your head for support. Your left hand can rest upon your upper hip.
- Your hips and shoulders should be stacked directly on top of one another with the head aligned with the spine.
- Raise the left leg off of the right leg. Keep the leg straight and the foot flexed. THe lifting leg is the only thing that should move. Do not shift the pelvis or shoulders.
- The leg should raise straight up, no higher than 45 degrees, with no external rotation.