Woman does gluteus medius exercises with a resistance band wrapped around her ankles
(Photo: Getty/Maria Fuchs)

The 8 Best Gluteus Medius Exercises to Build Strength and Stability

A trainer breaks down her go-to moves to maintain healthy hip abduction

Woman does gluteus medius exercises with a resistance band wrapped around her ankles
Getty/Maria Fuchs
Amber Sayer

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Regardless of whether you’re a runner, skier, or climber, you’re likely overlooking a key muscle in your training: the gluteus medius. Located within the gluteal muscle group, alongside your gluteus maximus and the gluteus minimus, this muscle helps protect and drive your hips. You engage this critical mover on a regular basis—without even thinking about it.

What Are the Benefits of Gluteus Medius Exercises?

It’s about much more than developing lower body strength. Your glutes also help extend and stabilize your hips. While hip extension is primarily driven by the gluteus maximus, your gluteus medius is essential for hip abduction, the movement of bringing your leg out to the side of your body.

Weakness in this muscle can increase the risk of injury, including knee and hip issues, IT band syndrome, and lower back pain. Strengthening exercises that target the gluteus medius help avoid these issues by building stability in your hips.

How to Understand the Strength of Your Gluteus Medius

If you’re unsure about how strong your gluteus medius is, there’s a simple test you can do to see. One of the common indications of weakness in this muscle is the Trendelenburg sign.

Here’s how to do it: Stand on one leg and have a friend look at your pelvis straight on. It should remain level. If your non-weight bearing hip drops down, that’s a sign of weakness in your glute muscles, particularly your gluteus medius.

What Are the Best Gluteus Medius Exercises?

To strengthen your gluteus medius muscle, turn to these exercises a few days a week.

A group of people do lateral band walks

1. Lateral Banded Walks

How to do it:

    1. Slide a small loop resistance band around your ankles. Stand upright with good posture. Place your hands on your hips.
    2. Your feet should be at least hip-width apart. Make sure there is tension on the resistance band. If the band is slack, swap your band out for one with more resistance or gradually increase the distance between your legs.
    3. Keep your core tight, glutes engaged, back straight, and chest up. Take a large lateral step out to the right with your right foot.
    4. Take a small step with your left foot to the right. There should be enough distance between your two legs to maintain tension on the band.
    5. Repeat this process. Continue taking small shuffle steps to the right. Allow for a slight bend in your knees.
    6. Take 20 to 30 steps to the right before repeating the same process on the left side.
    7. Complete three sets.

2. Frog Bridges

You may turn to a glute bridge as a go-to bodyweight exercise on your lower body days. And while this movement is useful for supporting the gluteus maximus, it doesn’t target the gluteus medius. However, this variation of the exercise does just that.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Place your feet flat on the floor. Cross your arms over your chest.
  2. Drop your knees out to the sides and position the soles of your feet together. Your legs should be in a butterfly stretch position.
  3. Squeeze your glutes and lift your hips off of the floor. Your butt should be in line with your knees and your shoulder blades.
  4. For a modified version, place your elbows alongside your body for added support.
  5. Pause and squeeze your glutes for 3 to 5 seconds in the lifted position.
  6. Slowly lower your glute
Woman does a leg lift in a side plank position

3. Side Planks With Side Leg Lifts

Sure, side planks are often a go-to exercise for working your core. However, adding a lateral leg lift also makes it a great gluteus medius strengthening move.

How to do it:

  1. Start in a low side plank position. Your elbow should be directly under your shoulder. Stack your feet on top of one another.
  2. Engage your core. Squeeze your glutes. Slowly lift your top leg a few inches up. Keep the leg straight.
  3. Slowly lower back down.
  4. Complete 15 leg raises. Keep your hips lifted throughout the movement.
  5. Switch sides and repeat.
Woman does a side lunge
(Photo: Getty/nortonrsx)

4. Lateral Lunges

In addition to strengthening the gluteus medius muscle, this exercise also works the adapters in your inner thighs, as well as your quads and core.

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your hands at your sides and your feet hip-width apart. If you want an added challenge, hold a dumbbell at your right shoulder.
  2. Step your right leg out to the right. Shift your weight toward your right side as you bend the right knee and drop into a side lunge. Keep your left leg straight.
  3. When your right knee is bent to 90 degrees or more, press through your right foot to return to the starting position.
  4. Complete 10 reps.
  5. Switch sides and repeat.
Woman does leg raises while laying on her side
(Photo: Getty/Antonio_Diaz)

5. Side-Lying Leg Raises

For an added challenge with this exercise, add ankle weights.

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your right side with your legs straight and stacked on top of one another. Prop your head up with your arm.
  2. Lift your top leg as high as you can.
  3. Slowly lower it back down.
  4. Complete 20 reps.
  5. Switch sides and repeat.

6. Fire Hydrants

Like the previous exercise, add ankle weights to make this movement more challenging.

How to do it:

  1. Start in a tabletop position. Keep your core tight and back flat.
  2. Engage your core to stabilize your hips. Lift your right leg out to the side. Keep the leg bent at a 90-degree angle. Stop when the knee is parallel with your shoulder.
  3. Pause for 2 to 3 seconds at the top.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Complete 15 reps.
  6. Switch sides and repeat.
Woman does a single leg balance
(: Getty/Shestock)

7. Single-Leg Balance

This movement may seem simple, but it can be very helpful for strengthening the gluteus medius, particularly for runners, hikers, and cyclists.

How to do it:

  1. Stand on one leg with a small bend in your standing leg.
  2. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds. To make it more challenging, close your eyes. For added support, hold onto a wall.
Woman does clam shell exercise
(Photo: Getty/zamrznutitonovi)

8. Clam Shells

How to do it:

  1. Place a resistance loop band around your thighs, just above your knees.
  2. Lie on your left side. Stack your knees on top of each other. Bend your legs at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Lift your right knee toward the ceiling, pushing against the resistance of the band. Rotate your hip to open your groin.
  4. For an added challenge, squeeze your heels together and lift your feet a few inches off of the floor. Keep your feet in this position throughout the exercise.
  5. Complete 10 to 15 reps.
  6. Switch sides and repeat.
Lead Photo: Getty/Maria Fuchs