3 gluteus medius exercises to strengthen hips

And reduce knee, hip and low back pain

Whether your goals are functional (better hip stabilization + less low back and knee pain), performance based (run faster + lift harder) or aesthetic (time to rock those jeans), training the glutes is probably a focal point in your fitness program.

I’m not going to argue with that. The glutes are king.

They play a key role in gait. They’re responsible for tracking our hips, knees and ankles, while keeping excessive load out of our lower backs when we move. They’re also a primary source of power.

And sadly, many of us (even gym lovers) have weak glutes, which is one reason why low back pain is so prevalent.

Why do so many of us have weak glutes?

I’ve said this plenty of times, but modern life hasn’t done us many favors when it comes to alignment. Chairs, while not bad when used for short durations, cause us to outsource the work of our glutes to our furniture and set us up to have overachieving hip flexors and TFL.

This in turn leads to less than ideal movement patterns, misalignment and joint pain.

Or maybe you don’t sit much. You go to the gym. You do a lot of squats and glute work, but you still have knees that point in or hips that hurt. Is glute weakness still the culprit?

Quite possibly. The reality is when we talk about training the glutes, this is usually over simplified and not all glute exercises or glute activation is created equal.

For example, squeezing your butt + doing hundreds of squats ain’t gonna help your joint pain and they aren’t going to directly target some of the weaker hip muscles like the gluteus medius.

For most people with hip/knee/low back pain or misalignment in the lower body, some weakness in the glutes is present.

It’s not that your glutes don’t work at all. It’s more that you’re overly strong in one part of the glutes (say the upper fibers of glute max – the largest glute muscle and easy to recruit in squats) and weak in the lower fibers of glute max, glute med and glute min, which play a larger role in stability.

Or to put it in english, if you tend to hang out in one hip and your knees like to turn in, you probably have weakness in the gluteus medius.

What are good gluteus medius exercises to strengthen the hip and improve lower body stability and alignment?

If you have a lot of pain, I’d say go find a physical therapist to help you, but if it’s little nagging things or you just want to be proactive about saving your knees and back, I’d start by releasing the tight things (hip flexor and TFL) via stretching or using a foam roller and then doing some exercises to strengthen the gluteus medius + improve hip stability.

Not sure of when to do these exercises? They make a great warm-up for pretty much any activity or you can use them as an addendum to any stretching, foam rolling, or restorative routine!

3 best gluteus medius exercises to strengthen hips 

3 best gluteus medius exercises to strengthen hips

Clam Shell







  1. Lie on your side with your knees bent (note, the straighter the knees, the more glute med and less TFL activation you’ll get).
  2. Check that hips are stacked and forward.
  3. Without rolling your hips back, lift the top knee and feel the engagement in the back of your hip.
  4. Perform 10-12 reps and repeat on second leg.

Pilates Side Leg Lifts







  1. Lie on your side and reach your top leg out to hip height. Check that your top leg is in line with your tail bone and that your knee is pointing forwards (and not towards the floor).
  2. Keeping your hips still and your waist long, slowly lift the top leg up a few inches past hip height. If you feel the front of your hip turn on, take your leg a little further back and check that you haven’t shortened in your waist or rolled your hips back.
  3. Perform 10-12 times and repeat on second leg.

Hip Listing







  1. Start with a ball or folded pillow between your hip and the wall.
  2. Place your outside leg underneath your hip and lift the leg that is closest to the wall.
  3. Drop your hip out to the side away from the wall like you are letting it be “lazy.”
  4. Push through your foot and feel your hip activate as your hike the ball or pillow up the wall (you should feel like this lifts your inside hip higher).
  5. Check that you don’t rotate, lock your knee or arch your back to do this.
  6. Perform 10-12 times and repeat on second leg.


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