A Physiotherapist’s Guide to the Glutes


The gluteal muscles (glutes) are perhaps the most talked about muscle group in the health and well-being industry, but what are they? In this article, we will take you through where you can find the glutes, what they do, how to warm up your glutes and how to strengthen them.

Anatomy of the gluteal muscles

The gluteals, or glutes is the collective group name given to three different muscles:

Gluteus Maximus

The gluteus maximus is the powerhouse of the gluteals, and is the largest and heaviest muscle in the human body. The most superficial (close to the surface) of the gluteal muscles, it forms the shape of the buttocks, attaching to many bones such as the iliac crest, coccyx and the sacrum.

Gluteus Medius & Minimus

If the gluteus maximus is the powerhouse of the glutes, then the gluteus medius and minimus are the stabilisers. The gluteus medius lives between the gluteus maximus and gluteus minimus, partly covered by the larger gluteus maximus but having two thirds being superficial despite being covered by fascia. This lies on top of the gluteus minimus, completely covering it. Both are located on the lateral aspect (side) of the pelvis and despite being smaller in size than the gluteus maximus, are often the areas where our patients will feel the most “burn” during glute exercises.

Function of the gluteal muscles

The primary function of the glutes is to extend the hip but they work in conjunction with other muscles such as the piriformis to externally rotate the hip. They collectively are the ‘stabilisers’ for the hip joint, but also support the entire mechanics of the lower limb. The glutes therefore play a massive role in many movements, aiding our posture and locomotion.

Some examples of when the glutes will be activated are:

  • Standing up from a chair
  • Walking
  • Jumping
  • Running
  • Balancing on one leg

When the Gluteus Medius & Minimus aren’t engaging, you will commonly see the pelvis drop from side to side, reducing efficiency and increasing injury risk. As for the Gluteus Maximus, this can be engaged by “tucking your tailbone under your pelvis”. When this glute muscle is underactive you will see people drop into excessive anterior pelvic tilt, increasing the likelihood of them experiencing lower back pain.

Top warm up exercises for your glutes

Glute bridge

With your feet shoulder width apart lay on your back with your knees bent to 45°. Keeping your shoulders and feet planted to the floor, imagine a string is pulling your hips up to the sky to form a bridge. Tense your buttocks at the top and hold for a few seconds before lowering your hips back down.


Lying on your side with your feet together, bend your knees 45°. Keeping your feet together, separate your knees and hold for a few seconds in the top position before lowering your top knee back down.

Crab walks

With a glute mini band just above your knees or around your ankles, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Dip into a quarter squat position and start to take small steps to the side, one foot at a time. Don’t let your feet come closer than shoulder width and move at a slow tempo.


Sit upright on your backside with your arms supporting behind and knees bent at 45°. Have your feet wider than shoulder width apart. Drop your knees one way so that one knee will touch the opposite ankle. Shift from side to side, keeping your feet and backside still.

Single leg balance

Stand on one leg with your shoes off. To make this harder, you can close your eyes and if you want to make it even harder, look up to the sky with your eyes closed!

Top strength exercises for your glutes


With your feet slightly wider than shoulder width apart, dip your hips back and down whilst allowing your knees to bend. Focus on your knees tracking over your 3rd and 4th toe, not coming together. You can load a squat in many ways such as a goblet squat, front squat or back squat.


A deadlift is a very similar movement pattern to a squat but you will just load the movement differently. If you are doing a conventional barbell deadlift then you will start with your laces under the bar and feet shoulder width apart. You will start from the bottom of a squat and stand up, moving the bar straight upwards. A couple of variations for the deadlift would be a kettlebell deadlift or trap bar deadlift.

Hip thrust

With your shoulders elevated on a bench or box, have your feet shoulder width apart about a metre from the box, with your knees bent and backside on the floor. Push through your feet and shoulders to raise your hips, forming a “bridge” between your shoulders and knees before lowering your hips back down. To increase the load, you can rest a barbell or dumbbell on your hips, supporting it with your hands.

Bird dogs

On all 4’s we are going to work in a diagonal pattern across the body. Keeping your shoulders, back and hips level reach forward with the opposite hand and foot. As well as working your glutes by kicking back, extending your arm forward is going to force your abdominals to co-contract to stabilise your torso.

Split squat

With your feet shoulder width apart, take a step forward and distribute your weight evenly between your front and back knee. Keeping your front knee over your ankle, lower your back knee down to the floor, bending both knees and keeping your body upright. To make this harder, you can elevate either foot or add weight using a barbell or dumbbells.

It is advised that these exercises are educated and trained by an experienced coach or professional that can assess the players competency and technique as well as review and set their training programmes to incorporate these exercises making sure that adequate rest and nutrition is planned.

Gregg Roberts

Operations Director & Senior Physiotherapist

Gregg is the Operations Director and a Senior Physiotherapist at the White House Clinic. He qualified with a BSc (hons) in Physiotherapy from Sheffield Hallam University in 2009.

Gregg Roberts

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