The benefits of a strong behind know no bounds. You’ll nail bigger lifts like squats and deadlifts, feel booty-ful (sorry, had to) in your favorite pair of jeans, and move through life—whether hiking, chasing your dog around, or just carrying heavy groceries—more easily.
To build powerful and well-rounded glutes (literally), there are three muscles you need to focus on. First, the major gluteal muscle, the gluteus maximus, which helps you extend your hips (like when squatting) and rotate your legs and toes out to the sides. This muscle covers pretty much the entire surface of your butt, and if you strength train, chances are you’re already showing these big muscles some love.
But there are two smaller—and lesser-known—gluteal muscles that also deserve some attention: the gluteus medius (above the glute maximus) and gluteus minimus (beneath the glute maximus). These muscles help your hips move laterally away from your body, like when you step from side to side.
Meet The Medius And Minimus
Why are these two glutes muscles overlooked? “They are substantially smaller than the maximus—the medius is about half the weight of the maximus, and the minimus is even less—and are less visually apparent because they reside underneath the maximus,” explains Brad Schoenfeld, Ph.D, C.S.C.S.-D., assistant professor in exercise science at CUNY Lehman College and author of The M.A.X. Muscle Plan.
Just because these muscles are small, though, doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Both muscles help stabilize your hip joints, helping you run, rotate, and shuffle.
Aside from their functional feats, these two other glutes muscles can make your butt look better. “Increasing the development of the medius and minimus contributes to overall glute size, so they are most certainly important from an aesthetic standpoint,” says Schoenfeld.
Plus, if you have weak medius or minimus muscles, you can land yourself with a number of surprisingly common issues, like ‘hip drop’ (when one side of your hips lowers because the opposite side is weak) or ‘knee valgus’ (when your knees cave in), says Schoenfeld. People with weak gluteus medius and/or minimus muscles may also experience low-back pain because their back takes on the stress of rotational movements instead of their glutes and legs.
Target The Tiny Two
To prevent injury, increase booty gains, and strengthen your hip muscles, add these four exercises—hand-picked by Schoenfeld—to your routine. You’ll isolate your glute medius and minimus muscles to effectively build strength.
1. Side Lying Hip Abductions
Lie on a bench on your side. Allow your top leg to cross over your bottom leg and stretch as far as possible over the side of the bench, without touching the floor. Engage your glutes to raise this leg as high as comfortably possible, and then return it to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
2. Cable Abductions
Set a cable machine with an ankle cuff attachment to the lowest setting. Stand next to the cable machine with your left leg closest to it. Attach the ankle cuff to your right ankle and take a comfortable step away from the machine. Hold onto the cable machine with your left hand for stability and allow your right ankle to cross over your left to bring your right ankle closer to the machine. Engage your glutes to pull your right leg back across your body and extend it as far out to the right as is comfortable (keep your leg straight), and then return it to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.
3. Lateral Band Walks
Place a looped band around your shins. Step your feet shoulders-width distance apart and slightly bend your knees and hips to assume a slight squat position. Step laterally (to the side) with your left foot, and then allow the right foot to follow. Take a few more steps to the left, and then reverse your direction and step to the right.
4. Clamshell Raises
Lie on your left side with your knees bent, your right leg over your left, and your feet together. Engage your glutes to raise your right knee up as high as comfortably possible, and then return it to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.