The Best Exercises for the Gluteus Maximus and Gluteus Medius

A recent study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research looked at the electomyographic activity in gluteus medius (stabilizer) and gluteus maximus (phasic muscle) during different exercises. This information is helpful when deciding which exercises to perform. Do you need/want to improve stability around the hip? Or increase the fast twitch global strength?
Based on the results of this study, we can identify exercises that produce the highest amount of EMG activity.

Gluteus Medius
Side-lying hip abduction – 81%
Single limb squat – 64%
Lateral band walk – 61%
Single-limb deadlift – 58%

Gluteus Maximus
Single-limb squat – 59%
Single-limb deadlift – 59%
Sideways, front, and transverse lunges – 41-49%

In addition to the manuscript, there are good video demonstrations of the exercises and a PowerPoint presentation which are freely available at the JOSPT website.
Clinical Implications
So what do we take from this study?
1. Side-lying hip abduction is a great entry stage isolational exercise. EMG activity was almost 20% higher than the next exercise.
2. The single limb squat and single-limb deadlift exercises activated high amounts of EMG activity for both muscles, and would be a logical progressional stage
3. The clam exercises produced EMG activity between 34-40% for both muscles. While this is low in comparison to other exercises, the authors did not use resistance during testing. I would still use this as an early activation/isolation exercise but add a resistance band around the thighs to upgrade it to a mid stage strength exercise.
4. The lunge exercises produce a moderate amount of EMG activity and are likely good early-stage exercises to progress to prior to the single-leg squat and deadlift exercises, the twisting lunge is also a great final stage functional sport specific exercise.

If you have any specific hip issues and want a chat about them, feel free to e-mail me at

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