Anyone who's trained with me knows how much I LOVE strengthening the gluteus medius, or "side butt" as i like to call it. Not only does this muscle have a huge responsibility in stabilizing the hips but a weak glute med can contribute greatly to knee and ankle injuries and can make activities like running or dancing really painful; this study sheds some light on the topic.
So how do you strengthen that glute med? First, let's get a visual of where this muscle is located so you have an idea of where you should be feeling the muscle working:
Now, here are some great exercises that really get that muscle working, conditioned and strong. Aim for 2 sets of 12-20 repetitions on each leg in your workout. Incorporate this a few times a week if want but remember that muscles you work out one day need a good 24 hours to rest and repair before you work them out again.
LATERAL LEG LIFT (a.k.a. The Jane Fonda):
This is one of my favorite exercises, mainly because it seems to be the one exercise that most of my clients have their "Side Butt Aha Moment". If you're not used to working the gluteus medius, I would recommend that you try this exercise first. It really isolates that muscle and makes it easier to identify exactly where the muscle is in relation to everything else.
Start on the ground, laying on one side. Bend the bottom leg for support and make sure your hips are stacked one on top of the other (so that your top hip isn't in front of or behind your bottom hip). Straighten your top leg and flex your foot and then extend the top leg ever so slightly behind you. Now, lift the top leg up and down in a slow, controlled manner; initiate the leg raise by squeezing that booty. Do not let your leg drop to the ground! Remember, controlled is the key word.
Take a resistance band and wrap it around your ankles or above your knees. Sit back into a slight squat; take 15 small steps to the left and then repeat in the opposite direction. Click on the picture to see the move in action.
Focus on initiating the movement from that side butt and don't let your torso rock back and forth like a penguin!
SINGLE LEG SQUAT:
This one can be a little tricky for those who lack balance so if you have trouble with this exercise to start, limit your range of motion or do it somewhere where you can catch yourself if you find yourself falling over :)
Start with one foot firmly planted on the ground (that includes all of your toes, especially the big toe and fourth toe). Raise your other foot up as if it was resting on a phone book. Hinging at the hips, sit back like you're going to sit down on a chair; pause for a second or two and squeeze that booty to get back up. Do this one in front of a mirror and make sure that 1. your hips stay level as you sit down and come back up to standing; 2. your standing knee is in line with your third and fourth toes and is not caving in; and 3. your torso is not collapsing over your lower body. If you see yourself falling into any of these patterns, limit your range of motion until just before your form breaks down. In time, you'll be able to push yourself further and get deeper into your single leg squat. Click on the picture to see the move in action.
These are really just a few glute med exercises to start incorporating into your workouts. Like I said, I love focusing on this part of the body so look out for more exercises in the future! Enjoy!