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March 30, 2021 3 Comments
These days, the old maxim of "don't skip leg day" is pretty unnecessary to say, as not many people do. In fact, a lot of people (especially women) might even be overtraining their glutes. So, we are not going to come at you like that...Having a tight, round, strong butt is top of mind for nearly everybody, men and women alike. And while the gluteus maximus is the most talked about and targeted muscle of the glutes, considering it makes up most of its shape, power and explosiveness, let’s not overlook the importance of the smallest muscle of your butt, the gluteus minimus. The gluteus minimus is a vital piece of the gluteal muscle puzzle as it not only helps fill out your booty and keeps it firm, but it also plays a key role in hip stability and hip abduction. With this in mind, we are going to look at the best gluteus minimus exercises that you can do at home and at the gym.
The gluteus minimus exercises below include regressions and progressions for each movement, to either make them easier or more difficult, so these exercises will suit all fitness levels.
Before get into the exercises, we want to go over the anatomy and importance of this often overlooked side butt muscle more formally known as the gluteus minimus.
WHAT IS THE GLUTEUS MINIMUS?
The gluteus minimus is one of three gluteal muscles - gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. These three muscles are what make up your buttocks. The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the three gluteal muscles. It is a deep-seated triangular-shaped muscle that runs from your hip bone to your upper thigh bone.
You, of course, have two gluteus minimus muscles, one on each side.
WHERE IS THE GLUTEUS MINIMUS LOCATED?
The gluteus minimus is located deep in the posterior region of the hip. The muscle lies deep to the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and tensor fasciae latae, with the gluteus medius covering the majority of it. The gluteus minimus starts at the gluteal surface of the ilium (the widest and largest of the three parts of the hip bone) and it travels down and narrows until the fibers ultimately connect to the proximal end of the femur (the knob on the end of your thigh bone).
The gluteus minimus is much the same as the gluteus medius in structure, nerve, blood supply and function.
The main function of the gluteus minimus is hip stabilization and hip abduction. Its actions include abduction of the femur, medial and internal rotation of the femur, and depression of the pelvis. Put simply, it helps you rotate and move your thighs to the side, and it does so in conjunction with your gluteus medius.
Your gluteus minimus, in tandem with your gluteus medius, also plays a key role in maintaining hip level when walking or running. If it wasn’t for these two muscles, your hips would drop every time you lifted your leg off the ground. The ability to maintain hip level, which is known as frontal plane control, is extremely important for so many movements that we do day to day. Every time you lift your leg up off the floor, your gluteus minimus activates, which is why single leg exercises are great for both the gluteus minimus and gluteus medius.
While those are the main functions, the gluteus minimus assists in other actions as well, such as flexion (bringing your leg forward) and extension (bringing your leg backward).
Obviously, these all seem like simple movements, but by having weak or tight gluteus minimus muscles, you will face some significant stability and mobility problems. Conversely, by making sure your gluteus minimus strong, you can bring about some great benefits.
When it comes to glute training, it’s not all about the gluteus maximus. Yes, training your gluteus maximus with squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusts is great…in fact, essential, as having a strong gluteus maximus is a must if you want a nice looking, powerful butt. However, training your other gluteal muscles is just as important. Most people think that side butt exercises (i.e. the hip abduction machine) are purely aesthetic (to give you that sexy side dent) but it’s actually much more than that. Training your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus using buttocks lifting exercises will certainly help with shape and firmness, but there are other considerable payoffs that come with it.
1. Maintaining Good Pelvic Alignment
As you walk or run, your gluteus minimus contracts to maintain pelvic alignment. If you were to have a weak gluteus minimus, your hip will sag downward as you pick the other leg off the floor. This kind of improper pelvic alignment will cause many lower body issues over time. We are talking about chronic hip pain, improper knee tracking, and balance issues. By training your gluteus minimus, you are helping to ensure that you never have issues with pelvic alignment. Don’t overlook this, as many older people do have issues with this. And while preventing it is obviously ideal, if you have poor pelvic alignment already, with gluteus minimus and gluteus medius exercises, you should be able to improve it.
2. Improved Athletic and Training Performance
The hips are extremely important for athletic movements and exercises. Hip stability is vital for any kind of running, jumping, lunging, and rotating movement, which sports are full of. If you want to be explosive, agile, and injury resilient, you need to have great hip stability, and strong gluteal muscles is one of the most important aspects of hip stability.
3. Prevention of Trendelenburg Gait, Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome, and Injuries
The inability to maintain hip alignment is known as Trendelenburg Gait (gain meaning how you walk). Trendelenburg Gait is one of the major contributors to lower extremity injuries. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a lot more common than you might think. When people develop it, doctors prescribe gluteus medius and minimus exercises. But, let’s not let this occur, we can stop it before it happens by keeping our gluteus strong.
Weak gluteal muscles don’t just affect the hips, issues can occur all the way down the legs. Another common issue with weak glutes is Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS), which is pain in the knee from improper tracking. If this isn’t fixed, it can lead to valgus of the knee too (when your knee caves inward - aka knock knees).
Other common injuries that can occur from weak gluteus minimus, and your glutes in general, include ACL injuries, ankle injuries and hip injuries from a lack of hip stability.
If you want to be injury resilient and have the longevity to keep yourself walking strong to your end of days, keep those glutes strong.
4. Improved Aesthetics
As we mentioned already, doing gluteus minimus exercises will help with firmness and sculpting your glutes. Needless to say, aesthetics also relies on dietary choices, as if you want to your glutes to grow or become more toned, you need to eat right.
5. Great for Rehab
Bodyweight or banded hip abduction exercises (which are also gluteus minimus exercises) are great for people coming back from an injury. The exercises will help you regain hip strength and stability and they are easy to implement as for many of the exercises, you are simply resisting gravity with your bodyweight. The harder options have regressions as well for those who need to regain strength after an injury.
So, many of the gluteus minimus exercises that we will demonstrate below are good for rehab, prehab and just strengthening your gluteus minimus in general. They are versatile for all fitness levels.
It’s not possible to isolate the gluteus minimus completely. You will be working your other gluteal muscles, especially the gluteus medius, when doing the below gluteus minimus exercises, as well as your other hip abductor muscles. This is why most of the gluteus minimus and medius exercises are the same. After all, the gluteus minimus lies directly underneath the gluteus medius and it shares the same functions.
Note: You have 6 hip abductors muscles. The primary muscles are your gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae (TFL), and the secondary muscles are your piriformis, sartorius, and superior fibers of the gluteus maximus. Thus, all of these muscles play a role in gluteus minimus exercises.
If you gluteus minimus muscles are weak, you will be prone to injuries of the lower extremity, which includes the hips, knees and ankles. It can even cause bad back pain.
Of course, with weak glutes, comes poor hip stability, which means bad balance.
AND, if you don’t take action by making your gluteus minimus strong, you may develop trendelenburg gait and PFPS or knee valgus. We’ve already dug into this by mentioning the benefits of preventing these kinds of issues above, so we won’t reiterate.
On top of all that, weak gluteal muscles can lead to pain in any area from your lumbar back down to your feet, as your joints will have pressure that they shouldn’t. It can also cause decreased hip mobility. Your body begins to compensate for the lack of function and mobility, which causes other lower body muscles to take over functions that they shouldn’t. This is another reason why people with weak gluteus minimus muscles have pain in their lower extremities. They probably don’t even know it is cause by weakness of the glutes as the pain doesn’t necessarily come from that area.
Let’s go over what causes weak glutes before we get into the exercises for your gluteus minimus….
WHAT CAUSES WEAK GLUTEUS MINIMUS MUSCLE?
Besides not doing gluteus minimus (or hip abductor exercises), there are certain (common) behaviors that can weaken the gluteus minimus. This includes sitting for long periods of time, standing with your weight shifted to one side, and sitting with your legs crossed for extended periods of time.
This not only weakens the glutes, but it also makes them tight. This is why doing exercises and stretches for the gluteus minimus on a regular basis is very important.
Now, we are finally going to talk about strengthening exercises for the gluteus minimus. After, we will get into a few good stretches.
To activate your gluteus minimus, or in other words, to target them to make them stronger, you simply need to do exercises and movements that specifically involve the function of the muscle. This means exercises that require hip abduction (which includes frontal plane lower body exercises - i.e. lateral lunges) are going to directly train and strengthen your gluteus minimus. Single leg exercises are also going to activate and engage the gluteus minimus as hip stability is required to perform the movement.
Most gluteus minimus exercises are minimal (pun intended), so you can do them literally anywhere, and they can be made easier with simple regression or made more difficult with progressions or added resistance (with resistance bands and booty bands being the most common implement).
So, if you workout from home, you can certainly do plenty of exercises that will adequately work your gluteus minimus. If you train at the gym, then you have a few more options to employ.
We've categorized the exercises by at home and at the gym, so we have 10 for home and 3 for the gym. However, the at home gluteus minimus exercises can be done anywhere, including the gym, and we provided alternate options for the gluteus minimus exercises for the gym that can be done at home.
Let’s start with gluteus minimus exercises that you can do at home…or anywhere, including the gym.
Here are 10 of our favorite gluteus minimus exercises that you can do anywhere. We’ve added some progressions and regressions where necessary, so these exercises can be effective for people of all fitness levels.
The side-lying hip abduction is one of the best lateral glute exercises you can do. Like any side plank, your glutes and core are going to be working in an isometric fashion to maintain the side bridge position. Then with the added hip abduction, your hip abductors are going to be firing off to raise your leg up. While this exercise works pretty much all the muscles of your core and glutes, it’s really going to hone in on your side butt, which includes your gluteus minimus and medius, allowing you to make these muscles stronger while also rounding out your overall butt development.
How To Do The Side Plank with Hip Abduction:
Make sure you maintain a straight torso by not letting your hips sag throughout the entire exercise!
If this exercise is too difficult for you, you have two regressions.
You can simply do a side plank. This is not exactly the same as you are not raising your leg, but it will train your muscles to be able to maintain a good side plank. Practice the side plank until you can hold it for 30 seconds. Then, when you are comfortable, you can start adding in some hip abduction by raising your leg.
Remember, even the side plank is going to work your gluteal muscles as they need to remain contracted to hold the position. It is a front plane isometric movement (aka an anti-lateral flexion exercise) which trains your body for lateral stability. Lateral stability requires strong gluteus medius and minimus muscles.
Modified Plank with Hip Abduction
A modified side plank is easier as you have your lower extremities (from the knee down) to the floor and they will be shooting towards the back a little bit, which makes balancing the plank easier. If you are a very beginner, then just holding this position is good. But, if you can, add a hip abduction to the movement. Just bring your knee up, keeping the entire leg in its same bent position, hold at the top for a second then lower it back down and repeat.
Now, if you want an even easier exercise that specifically targets the gluteus minimus and doesn’t require you to worry about your core, the next exercise on this list is the one…
The side lying hip abduction exercise is about as close as you are going to get to an isolation exercise for the gluteus minimus. It is going to specifically target your hip abductor muscles. Because it is easy to do, it is great for the general public and for rehab purposes. And while it is easy to do, it is very effective at strengthening your gluteus minimus and medius.
How To Do The Side-Lying Abduction
Keep your top leg straight throughout the entire movement. Really hone in on your side butt.
To make this exercise more difficult, you can add resistance by wearing a booty band (wrap it around your legs above your knee) or by holding a weight in place at the side of your thigh (a weighted plate or dumbbell works fine).
If you want an exercise that targets your entire lower body and works your gluteus minimus effectively, the curtsy lunge is it. The curtsy lunge is one of the best lunging, and lower body movements in general, for working your lateral glutes. This is because it moves you through the front plane (laterally).
How To Do The Curtsy Lunge:
Make this exercise more difficult by simply holding onto weight. You can simply hold onto dumbbells or kettlebells to increase resistance.
This hip abductor exercise gets its name Fire Hydrants because it resembles the way dogs urinate. It may be funny in name, but it is effective in action. Fire hydrants will do a great job of strengthening your hip abductors, especially your gluteus minimus and medius muscles. And, because they are easy yet effective, they are great for the general public and for rehab.
How To Do Fire Hydrants:
This exercise can be made more difficult by using a loop resistance band (either a booty band or a 41 inch loop resistance band). The band should be wrapped around your leg just above your knee. If you only have a 41” loop resistance band, then just double it up by folding it over then loop it just above your knee.
Trust us, the resistance band will make a huge difference. For beginners, the fire hydrant without a band is great, and for those who are stronger, the band will make it so this exercise works your glutes very well.
Lateral lunges are another fantastic lower body compound movement that works your side butt because your are doing a lunge through the front plane of motion. Your gluteus minimus is going to be firing off to press you back up from the lunge and the opposite side is actually going to be getting a little stretch as it will lengthen as you lunge down. Overall, this is a great exercise for those who want to strengthen their gluteus minimus without wasting time as it is going to also hit many other muscles at the same time.
How To Do The Lateral Lunge:
The lateral lunge can be done a few ways. You can do alternating lateral lunges where you keep your feet planted, alternating lateral lunges where you step the working leg out each rep from a position where your feet are hip width, or you can do one side at a time in the same manner (either keeping your feet planted in a wide stance or coming up to a hip width standing position each rep).
Let’s just go over the one side lateral lunge that requires your to step out with each rep.
You can do this same exercise by alternating sides, which you’d do 20 reps total.
Make this exercise more difficult by simply holding onto weight. You can simply hold onto dumbbells or kettlebells to increase resistance.
Related: 10 Best Dumbbell Glute Exercises
The glute bridge is one of the best isometric exercises for your glutes, hamstrings, lower back and abs. Moreover, it is accessible for anyone as it is pretty easy to do. Really squeeze those glutes to keep your body in a straight line and you will feel it.
How To Do The Glute Bridge:
Note: Use a little wider of a stance to emphasize the gluteus minimus more (this is because it involves a slight hip abduction).
Never lose the contraction. When you do, the exercise is done and you can come down, rest and repeat for desired number of sets.
There are a few variations and progression to make this exercise harder.
Single Leg Glute Bridge
The single leg glute bridge is not only more difficult as one leg and one side of your glutes are going to be holding your body up, but also it requires more hip stability, which is great for the gluteus minimus.
Glute Bridge With Resistance band
The glute bridge with a resistance band can be done by wrapping the band around your heels and bringing it over your hips or if it is a lighter band, you can hold it with your hands to the side and over your hips as seen in the picture. The resistance band simply adds resistance as it will be trying to force you to come back down, and thus, you will need to engage your muscles to a greater degree to maintain the position.
Glute Bridge with Weight
Just like a resistance band, you can place a dumbbell or weighted plate on your hips to add more resistance.
Elevated Glute Bridge
By elevating your both your shoulder and your feet (or just your feet), you will increase the difficulty of the exercise, and if you add reps into the holds (i.e. hold for 5 seconds, lower down, then drive your hips back up), you will significantly increase the difficulty as you are going from a much deeper position.
Your gluteus minimus and medius must support your body when you are on one leg, so single leg presses (and squats) are great for targeting these muscles. They must produce force to keep your hips from sagging.
While single leg squats are the best, they are very difficult as they require a lot of strength (lifting your entire body with one leg is a lot harder than it sounds if you’ve never tried it).
So, the single leg press with a band is a great option for beginners at home. You can use a lighter or heavier band to accommodate your strength level.
How To Do The Single Leg Press:
Other options for you to try are assisted single leg squats (aka pistol squats). You can hold on to a chair for balance, but it is still going to be very difficult.
If you are at the gym, a single leg press on the leg press machine is also good for hitting the quads and side butt.
Another good option for beginners are lateral step ups. Basically you put an elevated surface to your side, then you place the foot that is on the same side as the elevated surface up on it, then press your body up so you are standing tall on the elevated surface.
Lateral walks can be done with just your bodyweight alone, but they are more effective with a resistance band. You can use either a booty band around your ankle or you can do a set up that we will show you with a 41” loop resistance band. Both are not difficult exercises, but they are effective for targeting the side glutes.
How To Do Lateral Walks With Band:
Set up with 41” loop resistance band:
Step on the band with both feet, feet about hip to shoulder-width apart. Cross the band so that it makes and “X” and grab it with both hands at about hip level. Make sure the band is taut.
Front planks are a great core exercises that also engages the glutes if you do them properly, as you are supposed to squeeze your glutes and quads throughout the hold. With the added hip abduction, you double down on the glute work and significantly increase the demand of your hip stabilizers and core stability. This means your gluteus minimus will be working both in an isometric and isotonic fashion - one side stabilizes (isometric), the other side changes length and contracts (isotonic).
How To Do The Front Plank With Hip Abduction:
Note: If you have sliders (which you can get for cheap on Amazon), then place them under your feet and you can simply slide your feet in and out, slowly and controlled for maximum contraction.
To make the exercise more difficult, use a loop band around your ankle or above your knees (fabric bands should go above the knee, latex will likely be better for you around the ankle).
This is a dynamic, explosive exercise that can burn a lot of calories while training your side glutes as each rep you are jumping your feet out to the side (lateral movement) and since you are in a plank, your glutes must be engaged to maintain the position (regular jumping jacks will also work your sides glutes and the rest of your hip abductors but they may not keep constant tension in the same way.
How To Do Plank Jacks:
You can make this exercise more difficult and better target your gluteus minimus by looping a light booty band around your legs.
The next set of exercises are for the gym, but for those who don’t train at the gym, look through them as you will see variations that you can do at home with a band!
If you train at the gym, you can and should still do all of the exercises above (switching things up on a weekly basis), but you also have more options since you will have a cable machine and likely a hip abductor machine available to you.
Here are some gluteus minimus exercises that you can do at the gym, which most bodybuilders do, men and women alike for increasing the size and defining their side butt.
If you are a man, you may not love the idea of doing this exercise as it does have a feminine feel to it, since you are likely to see only women doing it. ButT (pun intended), women have the right idea! It is very effective for training the hip abductors.
How To Do Cable Hip Abduction:
Related: Best Cable Leg & Glute Exercises
BANDED STANDING HIP ABDUCTION
If you don’t train at the gym or you do but you want to try something different, you can do this exercise with just a 41” loop resistance band. Either loop the band around an anchor and then place one ankle through the other side and do the same movement as described above or fold the band over so it is double looped (which will make its length smaller) then place your knees in-between it and do the same movement.
If you have a fabric booty band or latex mini band, you can wrap it around your knees, calves or ankle and do the same exact movement in a standing position as well!
In terms of machines, this one is made for your hip abductors so its going to isolate the gluteus minimus as best as possible.
How To Use The Hip Abduction Machine:
You’ve probably seen girls in your gym or on Instagram using a variation where they lean forward and lift their butts off the chair. You can try this to see how it hits the glutes differently. Just be careful to keep your back in a safe position.
BANDED SEATED HIP ABDUCTION
With a fabric band, you can do the same exercise!
As you can see, bands are super versatile.
While the hip thrust is mainly a gluteus maximus targeted exercise, your gluteus medius and minimus will get significant activation! This is even more true when you wear a booty band (like you likely see a lot of people doing) as the band forces the gluteus medius and minimus to remain fully engaged.
How To Do A Barbell Hip Thrust:
You can do this with a barbell or a smith machine. Either way, the mechanics are the same. The smith machine is just an easier set up.
If a barbell is too much, you can just place a plate on your pelvis region and perform the hip thrust like that.
Single Leg Hip Thrust
Single leg hip thrusts, with or without a dumbbell, are also great and they can better activate your gluteus minimus as you will need more hip stability.
As we mentioned early, stretching exercises for your gluteus minimus are also important. So, we are going to go over a few good gluteus minimus stretches (hip abductor stretches) that you can employ…
WHEN AND HOW TO STRETCH GLUTEUS MINIMUS MUSCLE
The best times to stretch your glutes, which includes your gluteus minimus, are when they are tight, before a workout, and after a workout. However, the types of stretching your do will differ depending on the situation.
Before a workout, you don’t want to do static stretches. Prior to working out, you should do dynamic stretches, which are basically movements that bring your muscles and joints through their full range of motion. With dynamic stretches, you aren’t holding a stretch (and if you do it is just a couple seconds). However, it does stretch the muscle to its optimal range of motion, which is great for mobility and activating the muscle.
Static stretches should be done after your workout when your muscles are warm. Static stretches will bring your muscles slightly past their normal range of motion. This is good to do for recovery and to loosen up tight muscles after working out. Static stretches can be held for 20+ seconds.
Note: You don’t want to do static stretches before working out because it will weaken your performance. On top of that, your muscles are cold so you need to be careful stretching them and you are not likely to get a good stretch when they are cold. If you want to do static stretches and you didn’t workout, start with some dynamic stretches and movements to warm up a bit then begin static stretching.
If you have been sitting all day and you are not going to workout, go for a walk or begin with 5 minutes of dynamic stretches then begin a 5-10 minute static stretching session.
The above applies to any muscle. Now, in terms of how to stretch your gluteus minimus, there are a few great stretches (both dynamic and static) that we recommend. The following stretches will help loosen up and lengthen tight muscles. There is no need to overdo it with these stretches. 5 to 10 minutes a day is perfectly fine, but even every other day is good too.
Are you ready to warm up and release your tight gluteus minimus muscle?
LATERAL HIP SWINGS (dynamic stretch)
Lateral hip swings are simple. Stand up, hold onto something for balance, and swing your leg side to side, crossing your body and then up to the side as depicted…
FIGURE 4 (static stretch)
The figure 4 stretch is a great way to lengthen and release tight glutes. Do this after a leg workout and hold the position for 20+ seconds. Do both sides equally.
PIGEON POSE STRETCH (static stretch)
The pigeon pose stretch, which is taken from Yoga, is also fantastic for stretching the glutes and hip abductor muscles. With this one, be careful of your joints. You don’t need to lie your body flat over your feet like the pic shows. To start, just position your front leg at a 90˚ angle and keep your other leg straight back. Slowly lower your body down and feel the stretch, stop when it becomes too uncomfortable (you want a little discomfort as that is what a static stretch is, but you shouldn't feel very painful). As you practice this exercise, you will be able to lower your body down more.
You can also try sitting straight up with your back, which is also hard. This will stretch your back as well.
Like stretching, foam rolling is good to release tension of the muscle, relieve muscle soreness and improve flexibility and range of motion. You should foam roll before your static stretches as it will help with increasing your flexibility (you have like a 10 minute window after foam rolling where your flexibility is increased).
You can also foam roll before your workout as it will improve flexibility and range of motion without impairing strength like static stretches will. Foam rolling will be painful during the process but you will be glad you did after as it’s very relieving, like a massage is. It helps reduce pain and it can improve blood circulation.
90/90 STRECH (can be dynamic or static)
The 90/90 stretch is very popular among personal trainers. It is a great stretch to release and mobilize your hips. You can do this one both in a dynamic or static way. If you want to loosen up the hips before a workout, then get into the 90/90 position, hold for a couple seconds, then rotate your hips, lift your knees up and switch to the other side in a smooth motion. If you are doing a static stretch, hold the position for 20+ seconds, then repeat on the opposite side for 20+ seconds. This stretch shouldn’t be painful and it is more for decompression. It’s more of a mobility exercise than a stretch to lengthen your hip abductors, so it’s really best when done dynamically before a workout.
Doing a gluteus minimus workout (or more so a hip abductor workout) alone doesn’t really make sense. The best thing to do is choose a couple or a few of these exercises and throw them into your leg workout or your full body workout a couple times a week. Try the different gluteus minimus exercises and keep switching things up. If you feel certain ones are better for you, then that’s fine, stick to those.
A sample lower body workout could look like this…
Warm Up (5-10 minutes):
Static Stretching (5-10 minutes):
Repeat stretches twice if you’d like
A good rehab workout could look like this:
Warm Up (5-10 minutes):
*Note: We are not licensed medical practitioners. If you are concerned about your injury, please see a licensed practitioner and ask them what you can do for exercises.
As you can see, there are many ways to exercise your gluteus minimus and now you know just how important this deep-seated side butt muscle is! Don’t neglect it. Add these glute exercises into your workout plan and you will reap the rewards both aesthetically and functionally for the long run.
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