So, conventional wisdom and research continues to point to the need for promoting increased gluteus medius and maximus strengthening to promote better knee stability and ward off many other kinetic chain breakdowns.  While there are many examples of how to train these muscles, the question is what are the best exercises to promote hypertrophy of these groups.


Whether training or administering rehab, it is important to understand how best to activate these muscles as time may be limited.  I think it bears mentioning that core function is closely tied to pelvic posture/alignment so it will be no surprise as you see the best exercises in this post according to recent research released in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy.  To promote muscle strength, higher MVIC correlates to better strength gains.  So, looking at the %MVIC of exercises clinicians and fitness pros alike can better rank the order and appropriateness of certain exercises to maximize health and performance of their clients.

According to a the study at Belmont University, the authors looked at 18 different exercises using surface EMG to study activation of the gluteus maximus and medius.  Below is a summary of the top 5 exercises stimulating greater than 70% MVIC for each muscle group:

Gluteus Medius

  1. Side plank abduction with dominant leg on bottom (103% MVIC)
  2. Side plank abduction with dominant leg on top (89% MVIC)
  3. Single leg squat (83% MVIC)
  4. Clamshell 4 (hip clam – 77% MVIC)
  5. Front plank with hip extension (75% MVIC)

Gluteus Maximus

  1. Front plank with hip extension (106% MVIC)
  2. Gluteal squeeze (81%)
  3. Side plank abduction with dominant leg on top (73% MVIC)
  4. Side plank abduction with dominant leg on bottom (71% MVIC)
  5. Single leg squat (71% MVIC)

Click here to read the abstract of the study.  I think it is fairly obvious based on the data presented in the article that core stability and training should be integrated with hip strengthening.  I presented a column in Functionally Fit last year on plank with hip extension and abduction using a BOSU.  This is more advanced concept than just the traditional plank, but a very good exercise.  See the picture below:


Click here to read the entire column on the BOSU plank with hip extension/abduction.  This particular exercise requires hip disassociation and core stability.  I just finished a new column for PFP Magazine on BOSU clamshells so stay tuned for that one as it reveals a side lying progression to optimize hip strength as well.