The gluteus medius muscle is an extremely important but often overlooked muscle for every day performance. Situated along the side of the pelvis, the glute medius helps abduct the leg (bring the leg away from the body) and helps maintain an even pelvic alignment during single leg stance during both running and walking. While this smaller glute muscle may not seem like a priority for runners’ strength programs, in reality this muscle can make or break your stride.
A simple functional test to check glute medius strength is actually performing a single leg balance. Essentially, weakness presents itself with a contralateral (opposite) hip drop during single leg balance. To test the right glute medius, one would balance on the right leg. If the left hip drops lower than the right hip, you can assume there is weakness in the right glute med. Functional strength in the glute medius is noted when the pelvis remains in alignment during single leg balance.
If the hip drop is not noticed in single leg balance, it may be picked up with a running analysis. This involves slow motion video capture, but the principle is the same. When your stance leg is down, we look for a drop in the opposite side. This would indicate a lack of strength on the stance side.
Body mechanics are of the upmost importance when trying to improve speed, stride length, and overall running mechanics. Running requires single leg balance, even for a split second. Weakness in the glute med while running may present itself with increased adduction of the thigh towards the midline of the body. This can cause the knee to collapse inward, creating excessive strain through the knee joint. The body is now at a biomechanical disadvantage and has to compensate in some way to progress onward and continue the stride. You might compensate by recruiting the “wrong muscles,” wasting precious energy and potentially putting yourself at risk for injury.
Glute medius weakness has been associated with hip, knee, and low back pain in runners and sedentary people alike. While weakness is very common, there is immense research on exercises to specifically target the glute medius muscle.
Stop in for a full evaluation and to learn first hand exercises and drills to help strengthening your hips and improve your running!
Here are some exercise progressions that target the gluteus medius:
Half Side Plank with Clam Holds – this one targets the glute medius on BOTH sides
Speed Skater Holds
Speed Skater Holds with Torso Rotation
Get in Touch:
Alyson O’Connor, PT, DPT, CSCS
Owner – Impact Physical Therapy and Performance
Physical Therapist – Laguna Niguel, California
Do you struggle to get through a round without pain?
Are you losing distance on your drive?
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No more guessing- follow a plan. The guide includes video explanations so you know you are doing the exercises correctly.