The booty is back, and in a big way! A well-developed derriere is the trend du jour thanks to celebs like J-Lo, Kim K., and Queen Bey. Aesthetically speaking, a lifted, toned tush leaves a lasting impression. But from a physical standpoint, having good glutes is about more than filling out your favorite jeans. Your gluteal muscles are your best asset (pun intended) when it comes to protecting your lower back, knees, and hips from injury. And while the gluteus maximus tends to get all the attention thanks to its role in creating the coveted “bubble butt” shape, the gluteus medius should not be overlooked.
This important muscle works with the gluteus maximus to flex and extend the leg. More importantly, it is the muscle responsible for stabilizing the pelvis and helping you keep your balance while moving forward. It is also the primary mover in both hip abductions (the action of lifting your leg to the side) and the internal rotation of the hip. Runners especially rely on a strong gluteus medius to prevent the knees and feet from rotating inward. To train this muscle properly, you need to incorporate specific moves into your glute and leg day routine that go beyond squats and deadlifts.
Before you get started, having a basic understanding of the composition of the glutes can help you target the right area. The largest muscle group in the body, the glutes are made up of three primary muscles. To achieve a well-rounded booty, as well as improve your overall strength and functional movement, all three must be worked. As mentioned above, the gluteus maximus is the largest and most visible. That’s why it tends to get the most focus both in the gym and in your jeans. It is the muscle most commonly referred to when you hear the term “booty gains” because it is relatively easy to target and build. The smallest and deepest muscle is the gluteus minimus. Similar to the medius, it assists with pelvic stabilization and medial rotation. In the middle of the maximus and minimus is the fan-shaped gluteus medius. When it is weak, the lower back muscles take over to help with pelvic stabilization. The result is unnecessary stress and strain on the back that can ultimately lead to more serious injuries.
To prevent these issues and strengthen the gluteus medius you need to add abduction with resistance to your workouts. You can do this by isolating the muscle with lateral movements or through combination moves that target all three of the muscle groups at once. More bang for the booty buck! You don’t need an expensive gym membership or fancy equipment to get the job done. A set of resistance bands can help you boost your booty anytime, anywhere.
“Using resistance bands in both standing and reclined positions are an effective and efficient way to target and strengthen the gluteus medius,” says Colleen Hill, former NBA dancer and master instructor at Amp Studio Texas. “A small band at the right resistance can work this area just as well, if not better than, large gym equipment.”
One of her favorite moves involves placing a heavier resistance band around the upper legs, just above the knee, and performing a squat with alternating lateral leg lifts.
“Efficiency is my favorite word, and this move tones the medius while recruiting the maximus for the squat,” she explains.
Need more medius motivation? Grab a band and try the following moves:
Like the squat with alternating leg lifts, a banded glute bridge with abduction incorporates all the glute muscles but pays special attention to the medius. To perform, place a heavy resistance band above your knees and lie flat on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Start by contracting your core and glutes, then push through your heels to raise your hips off the ground. Keeping the tension on the band, perform an abduction by pushing against the band and taking your knees wider. Return the knees to the center, lower the hips to the floor, and repeat. Perform 10-12 reps.
This move, when done correctly, will fire up the gluteus medius quickly and give you a good burn. Place a medium to heavy resistance band above the knees and stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and feet facing forward. Step out with your right foot so that your feet are now shoulder-width apart. Step in with the left foot, returning to a hip-width stance. Take 10 steps with the right foot leading, followed by 10 with the left foot leading, keeping tension on the band the entire time.
This move looks simple, but don’t be fooled. It’s a sizzler! With a medium to heavy resistance band above the knees, lie on your side with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and your feet in line with your hips. With your head on the floor or resting in your hand, lift the top knee off of the bottom knee with your toes glued together, opening and closing your legs like a clamshell. Perform 10-20 reps and repeat on the opposite side.
Adding these moves to your strength training routine will not only improve your overall posture, strength, and stability, it will help you leave aches, pains, and injuries in your lower back, hips, and knees in the rearview.