May 30, 2021 9 min read

Are you someone who finds themself sitting at a desk or seated in a chair for much of the day?  If so, then you need to pay attention because you may be unknowingly weakening and even damaging the muscles in your glutes and hips.

Sedentary lifestyles are known to be extremely problematic for our glute and hip abductor muscles including the gluteus minimus.  The gluteus minimus is an often-overlooked muscle that should be anything but the sort if you want to have a healthy and strong body for many years to come. 

To curve the weakening of your glutes and hips, pay attention to these top exercises for strengthening your gluteus minimus. 

3d illustration shows the gluteus minimus muscles on skeleton

What’s the Gluteus Minimus?

The gluteus minimus is a small muscle located deep within the posterior hip. It runs from the ilium to the proximal end of the femur and is a part of the gluteal muscle group. It has two primary functions including:

  • Initiating movements from the hip joint
  • Stabilizing the hips and entire lower body

Along with the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus, the gluteus minimus is known as a hip abductor muscle because of its primary function of initiating movements from the hip joint. When the gluteus minimus and gluteus medius muscles work together, they can cause an abduction of the thigh or initiate an internal rotation of the thigh from the hip joint. 

Hence, hip abduction exercises, as well as exercises that rotate the thigh, are great for working the gluteus minimus.  Most of the exercises you’d do in a typical glute workout target the gluteus minimus.Additionally, the gluteus minimus stabilizes the entire lower body. 

Greater stabilization reduces the likelihood of getting injured during exercise.  So, if you want an overall stronger and more stabilized body, you can’t ignore the gluteus minimus.

Benefits of Activating the Gluteus Minimus

Although the gluteus minimus is a small and commonly overlooked muscle, it is an extremely important one to regularly activate. That’s because, if your gluteus minimus begins to weaken, you could run into a laundry list of different issues mostly centered around extremely painful body pains and tenderness of the joints. 

With that said, here are the top benefits of regularly activating your gluteus minimus:

1. Prevents general back pain and hip pain: Would you believe that having weak glutes can cause serious back and hip pain?  It turns out that failing to regularly activate your glute muscles including the gluteus minimus can cause impairments in the lumbar spine, that is the lower area of the back.  When the lumbar spine is in bad shape, you’re likely to experience pain in both your lower back and hip flexors.   However, you can easily prevent this by regularly activating your gluteus minimus. 

2. Prevents Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome (GTPS): Gluteus minimus tendinopathy can cause GTPS, a severely debilitating pain in the lateral hips.  It’s caused by a breakdown of collagen in the gluteus tendons as a result of weakness in the area.  You can prevent this breakdown by regularly activating the gluteus minimus.

3. Keeps your joints feeling stronger: When your joints feel strong, your entire body feels strong.  And when your entire body feels strong, you’re able to stay active for longer and feel younger.  Having a strong gluteus minimus muscle will help your hip joint feel stronger and prevent you from feeling those early signs of aging long before you should ever be feeling them.

Having a mostly sedentary lifestyle can exacerbate these potential problems because sitting for long periods can weaken your gluteus minimus due to lack of activation.  But, even if you're up moving around for a lot of the day, you should still pay extra attention to this particular muscle in the gym in order to prevent body pains and aches.

1. Curtsy Lunges

Curtsy lunges are a variation of the traditional lunge.  They activate your gluteus minimus more than the traditional lunge.Start standing with your feet hip-width apart.  Shift most of your weight to your left foot while drawing your right foot backward and in line with your right hip. 

Then, shift your right foot behind and slightly further to the left than your left foot.  Naturally, your hips will want to rotate outward but keep them facing forward.Tuck in your right toes, hold your arms out to the sides for balance and then lunge down so your right knee hovers only slightly above the ground. 

Return to the standing position and then go again until you’re ready to switch to the other side.  If you’re doing this right, the movement will look like a curtsy. Not only will curtsey lunges fire up your gluteus minimus, but they’ll also work all of your other glute muscles, quadriceps, and hamstrings. 

And, if you want to make curtsy lunges more difficult, you can do them while holding on to a medicine ball or dumbbell for extra resistance. 

2. Fire Hydrants

If you’re familiar with pilates, then you probably already know what fire hydrants are and how deadly they can be.  And, if you’ve never done pilates before, then just know that this exercise is a very simple yet challenging movement that is typically underestimated.

Start by getting on your hands and knees.  Your hands should be right under your shoulders, your knees under your hips, and your spine perfectly horizontal with the floor. Exhale, then lift your right knee off of the floor by opening it up to the right. 

Channel strength from your glute and hip muscles to stimulate the opening.  Inhale, then drop the knee back underneath your hip.  Do ten reps opening the right knee then do the left knee.Do not rotate open from your torso!  Your torso should be completely horizontal with the floor throughout the entire exercise. 

The opening should come from your hip joint.  If you’re doing the movement correctly, then you should look like a dog peeing on a fire hydrant, hence the name of the exercise. 

Fitness man doing bodyweight glute floor bridge

3. Glute Bridges

Glute bridges are one of the best exercises for activating all of your glute muscles.  Start by laying flat on your back on a mat with a neutral spine, your feet tucked in towards your glutes, and your arms by your sides. 

On an exhale, press on the heels of your feet and peel your spine up off the floor vertebrae by vertebrae until your spine is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Hold at the top of your bridge by squeezing your glutes, then inhale and slowly make your way back down to the floor.

You should feel as if there is a string attached to your hips and someone is pulling you up into the air from the string.  The movement is very slow and almost as if you are levitating in that top bridge position. 

To get to that bridge position, channel the strength from your gluteal muscles and squeeze them as hard as you can. If you want to make these more difficult than just lifting your body weight, you can wrap a loop resistance band around your thighs or balance on your toes.

4. Clamshells

Begin by laying the right side of your body on a mat in a completely straight line.  Once you’re in a straight line, bend your knees to a 90-degree angle so that your knees touch the edge of the mat.  Keep your feet in line with your hips and the rest of your upper body.

Once you’re in position, keep your feet held together and lift them off of the ground so they’re a little bit higher than your hips.  Your feet should still be in line with your hips.  Once they’re lifted, keep your toes together and open up your top leg by lifting your top knee off of the bottom one.

As you open from your hip joint, your entire upper body should stay in line and facing forward.  Squeeze your glutes with your knee open and then drop the knee back down.  Do ten reps with the left leg on top then switch to the right leg on top.You will know you are doing this right if the movement from your top leg simulates that of an opening clamshell. 

5. Lateral Walks

Grab either a loop resistance band or a regular resistance band tied into a circle.  Wrap the resistance band around your shins and stand with your feet hip-width apart.  Squat down slightly into an athletic stance.  If you don’t feel resistance from the band at this point, either grab a band with more resistance or tighten the circle of the one that you tied.

From an athletic stance, hold your hands in a prayer position and take a step right with your right foot. The step should be wide enough so that your feet end up shoulder-width apart. Then, step to the right with your left foot so your feet return to shoulder width. Take ten steps to the right with your right foot leading, then do the same movement going left with your left foot leading.

6. Side-Lying Hip Abduction

Begin by laying the right side of your body on a mat.  Create one long line with your body by resting your head on your right arm and laying your left arm on top of the left side of your body.

When you’re ready, exhale and lift your left leg just a few inches off of the right leg.  Inhale and slowly drop the leg back down before lifting again.  All it is is a simple lift of the leg and then returning to the starting position laying down.

Be sure to maintain that long body line throughout the entire movement.  Avoid breaking that form by only lifting your top leg a few inches off of the bottom one.  It’s a tiny movement that can make a big impact on your hip abductors.

Sporty man doing squat on one leg

7. Single-Leg Squats

Single-leg squats are an advanced exercise.  Not only do they work your glutes and hips, but they also require a lot of stability from your core.Get into a squat starting position with your feet hip-width apart and hands pointed straight out in front of you at chest height. 

When you’re ready, shift your weight into the heel of your right foot.   Lift your left foot directly in front of your left hip just a couple of inches off the ground.Send your hips back as you squat down on your right leg.  Ideally, in the lowest part of your squat, your right leg will be parallel with the ground. 

However, this requires a lot of balance and strength, so if you’re just getting started, you don’t need to go quite as low.  If you need extra balance, you can either hold your arms out to the sides or sit back onto a bench or chair as you squat down. 

8. Side Plank Hip Dips

Start by laying on your mat on the right side of your body.  Create one long line from the crown of your head to your feet.  Place your right hand underneath your right shoulder and press up into a side plank position. Your left foot should be on top of your right foot, not touching the ground. 

Stabilize and hold your body up by engaging your oblique muscles on the right side. When you’re ready, exhale and drop your right hip down to the mat. Instead of holding at the bottom, immediately use the strength of your obliques to press your left hip back up into the air. 

It should be as if there is a string attached to your left hip that is pulling you off of the ground and back into that side plank position. This exercise is great for your hips as well as your oblique muscles.  Along with your gluteus minimus, strong obliques help stabilize your entire lower body.

9. Box Step-Ups With a Leg Lift

Box step-ups are a great exercise to activate your gluteus minimus.  And, you can level them up by adding a leg lift.Grab a medium-height box that’s neither too easy nor too hard for you to step on to. If you don’t have a box handy, you can simply step onto a stair.  Step onto the box with your right foot and lift your left leg so your quad is parallel to the ground. 

Hold your left leg lifted at the top, then set it back down and step your right foot off the box.  Switch sides by stepping onto the box with your left foot and lifting your right leg to parallel with the ground.  Continue alternating stepping and lifting each leg until you’re tired.

As you’re stepping up on the box, make sure that your hips stay squared-forward.  Do this by stepping your foot straight on top of, not around, the box.  If you’re having a hard time stepping up straight, then your box is probably too high.

10. Deadlifts

Last but not least, deadlifts activate your gluteus minimus along with all of your lower body’s largest muscles including the hamstrings and gluteus maximus.  If you’re new to deadlifts or are lifting a hefty amount of weight, be sure to get assistance from a spotter or personal trainer.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell placed on the ground in front of your feet.  Squat down and grab the bar outside of your legs.  Stand up by driving your hips forward while hanging your arms straight down.  As you pick the bar up, make sure to keep your core engaged and spine neutral to avoid back injuries. 

Once you’ve stood up straight and held at the top by squeezing your glutes, slowly release that glute squeeze and allow the bar to pull your upper body down.

Deadlifts are one of the best strength training exercises out there.  Before getting started doing them, make sure to read our deadlift guide so you can make the most out of them.

Final Thoughts on Gluteus Minimus Exercises

Your gluteus minimus is a small but mighty muscle.  In our highly sedentary culture, it’s extremely important that you regularly activate the gluteus minimus to prevent potentially debilitating body aches and pains.  Even though it's a less talked about muscle, you need to regularly activate it if you have any hopes of staying active for years to come.

Bonus tip: Neglecting your gluteus minimus can make you feel seriously old.  Want to know what else can make you feel old?… anabolic resistance.  Learn to overcome anabolic resistance with our guide.


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