Sedentary lifestyles, particularly sitting at a desk or in a chair for most of the day, can be detrimental to our glute and hip abductor muscles, including the often-neglected gluteus minimus.
To prevent the weakening of these muscles and maintain a healthy and strong body in the long run, it's important to focus on exercises that target the gluteus minimus.
As an experienced fitness professional, I’ve done my research and gathered the best hip abduction exercises that I’ve found to be very successful in strengthening the gluteus minimus and improving hip stability.
Let’s dive in.
- The best exercises to activate the gluteus minimus include side planks and side-lying hip abductions, hip thrusts, clamshells, fire hydrants, lateral walks, and curtsy lunges.
- Strengthening the gluteus minimus improves pelvic alignment, enhances athletic performance, prevents back and hip pain, and increases joint strength.
- You can improve your workouts by increasing resistance, range of motion, and balance challenges while prioritizing rest, stretching, and foam rolling for optimal results.
10 Best Exercises To Activate Gluteus Minimus
Here are ten effective exercises to target your gluteus minimus. These exercises can be performed using dumbbells, resistance bands, gym machines, or with no equipment.
1. Side-Lying Hip Abduction
Hip abduction is a simple exercise that targets the outer thighs and inner glutes.
Side-lying hip abductions can be done in different ways, with or without equipment, making them a convenient addition to a lower-body workout.
Here are the steps to perform a side-lying hip abduction:
- Begin by assuming a right-side-lying position on the floor.
- Wrap a mini band around your ankles and extend your knees.
- Raise your left leg while resisting the pull of the mini band, keeping your leg straight.
- Pause at the highest point of the movement and squeeze the side of your hip muscles on your left leg.
- Lower your leg slowly, maintaining tension on the band, and repeat for the right leg.
2. Side Plank With Hip Abduction
The side plank hip abduction strengthens and sculpts the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles, enhancing stability and balance while supporting the knee and hip joints.
Here's how to perform this exercise:
- Begin by lying on your side with your elbow and bottom leg resting on the ground.
- Lift your body into a side plank position by raising your torso on your elbow and supporting yourself with the side of your bottom foot.
- Once in the side plank position, raise your top leg as high as possible while contracting your side glutes, then lower it slowly.
- Repeat for 10–12 repetitions before switching sides.
3. Barbell Hip Thrust
The hip thrust targets the gluteal muscles and engages the quads, adductors, and hamstrings.
It works great as a warm-up or cool-down exercise and offers optimal hip extension.
To perform this exercise:
- Load a barbell and position it perpendicularly to a gym bench.
- Sit on the bench, aligning your entire upper body with the barbell directly over your hips.
- Bend your knees, placing your feet wider than shoulder-width apart with toes slightly outward.
- Grip the barbell just outside your hips, ensuring an even hold.
- Engage your abs, inhale, and extend your hips by pushing through your heels and squeezing your glutes.
- Lift the barbell until your shoulders, hips, and knees are in line.
- Hold the top position briefly, exhale, and slowly lower your buttocks to the floor.
4. Single-Leg Squats
The single-leg squat, also known as pistol squats, is a challenging variation of the squat performed on one leg, adding balance and stability demands.
It is recommended for intermediate to advanced fitness levels, and beginners can modify the exercise using a chair for support.
Here are the steps to perform a single-leg squat:
- Assume a squat starting position with feet hip-width apart and hands extended in front at chest level.
- Shift your weight onto your right heel and raise your left foot a few inches before your left hip.
- Squat down on your right leg, pushing your hips back.
- Aim to have your leg parallel to the ground at the lowest point of the squat.
- Return to the starting position, and repeat for reps.
It also balances the muscular effort between the inner and outer thighs and the pelvic floor.
Follow these steps to perform this gluteus minimus exercise:
- Lie on your left side, aligning your body in a straight line on a mat.
- Bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, with your knees touching the mat's edge and feet in line with your hips.
- Lift both feet together slightly higher than your hips while keeping them aligned.
- Open your top leg by raising your right knee while maintaining a forward-facing upper body and aligned posture.
- Squeeze your glutes as you open the knee, then lower it back.
- Perform ten repetitions and then switch sides.
6. Fire Hydrants
Fire hydrants, also known as quadruped hip abductions, are bodyweight exercises that sculpt the glutes, alleviate back pain, and reduce the risk of injury when performed consistently.
Follow these steps to perform this move:
- Start by positioning yourself on all fours, aligning your hands directly beneath your shoulders, and engaging your core muscles.
- Maintain a slight bend in your leg as you raise it sideways until it reaches hip level.
- Return to the starting position.
- Repeat the movement for your preferred number of repetitions.
7. Cable Hip Abduction
This exercise engages the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae, all of which stabilize the hips and prevent inward leg collapse.
Here's how to do it:
- Use ankle straps on the lowest level of a cable machine, or slide your foot through one of the handles if ankle straps are not available.
- Hold onto the cable pulley machine and keep your leg straight while lifting it.
- Raise your leg as high as possible, maintaining a normal range of motion.
- Lower your leg slowly and repeat the exercise.
- Perform the exercise on both sides.
Also Read: How To Do Cable Kickbacks
8. Lateral Walks With Band
Lateral band walking is an effective exercise to enhance hip stability, strengthen the hip abductors, and improve knee joint stability.
It engages deep pelvic stabilizing muscles when performed as a warm-up exercise.
Follow these steps to perform lateral walks:
- Use a booty band and place it either around your ankles or above your knee.
- Assume an athletic stance with a slight knee bend and lower buttocks.
- Take a step to the right with your right foot, maintaining tightness.
- Follow by stepping your left foot to the right, returning to shoulder-width distance.
- Repeat this stepping sequence 5–10 times to the right, then switch to the opposite side.
Learn More: How to Do Lateral Bounds
9. Hip Abduction Machine
This move effectively strengthens the abductors, contributing to core stability and improved performance in exercises like squats and deadlifts.
Additionally, it aids in sculpting well-rounded glutes and hips for a more aesthetically pleasing appearance.
Here are the steps to do it:
- Assume a seated position on the hip abduction machine, maintaining a straight upper body posture.
- Adjust the weight to a suitable level based on your strength, starting with a lighter load if unsure.
- Engage your hip abductor muscles to push your legs outward.
- Pause briefly at the outer position before gradually returning them to the starting position, and repeat for reps.
10. Curtsy Lunges
The curtsy lunge is a variation of the traditional lunge that engages different leg muscles.
It targets the inner and outer thighs with the glutes for improved tone.
Here's how to perform it:
- Stand tall, maintaining a straight back, lifted chest, and feet hip-width apart.
- Step your right foot diagonally back and left, bending both knees as your right leg descends.
- Keep your left knee aligned over your ankle and maintain a neutral spine.
- Before your right knee touches the ground, drive back up using your left leg.
- Return to the starting position with feet facing forward at hip width.
- Repeat the movement on the opposite side, with your left foot planted and your right leg returning to the right.
Anatomy and Function of Gluteus Minimus Muscles
The gluteus minimus, a component of the gluteal muscle group, is a small muscle situated deeply in the posterior hip region.
It extends from the ilium to the proximal end of the femur .
"Strong glute muscles are important for proper pelvic alignment, propulsion during walking and running, and even standing on one leg."
- Amy Koch, MPT
It plays an important role in hip movement and stability. Along with the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus, it functions as a hip abductor muscle, initiating movements from the hip joint.
Here are some tips to enhance your gluteus minimus exercises, promoting progression and diversity:
- Increase resistance: Use resistance bands, dumbbells, ankle weights, or a barbell to add resistance to your exercises. Examples include using a resistance band for clamshells or lateral band walks.
- Increase range of motion: Progress by increasing the height of leg lifts or the depth of squats to expand the range of motion in your exercises.
- Include balance challenges: Improve stability and difficulty by incorporating balance exercises such as standing on one leg during leg lifts, single-leg squats, or holding a single-leg glute bridge.
- Combine exercises: Combine gluteus minimus exercises with gluteus medius and gluteus maximus exercises for a comprehensive workout.
- Allow for rest and recovery: Give your body proper rest between workouts to prevent injury and optimize results.
- Stretch and foam roll: Include stretching and foam rolling to release tension in weak glute muscles and enhance flexibility.
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Performing gluteus minimus exercises brings multiple benefits, some of which include:
- Improved pelvic alignment: The gluteus minimus helps maintain proper pelvic alignment during walking, preventing issues like chronic hip pain and incorrect knee tracking .
- Better athletic performance: Strong gluteal muscles, including the gluteus minimus, enhance hip stability for explosive and agile movements, maximizing athletic potential.
- Improved aesthetics: Working the gluteus minimus alongside other hip abductor muscles can contribute to sculpted glutes and enhance the appearance of your buttocks.
- Prevention of back and hip pain: Regularly activating the gluteus minimus prevents impairments in the lumbar spine, reducing lower back and hip flexor pain .
- Prevention of greater trochanteric pain syndrome (GTPS): Activating the gluteus minimus helps prevent collagen breakdown in gluteal tendons, mitigating the risk of GTPS .
- Enhanced joint strength: A strong gluteus minimus promotes overall joint strength, allowing for increased longevity, reduced signs of aging, and improved mobility.
Can You Make Gluteus Minimus Bigger?
Yes, you can make your gluteus minimus bigger by regularly doing frontal-plane lower body exercises that require hip abduction.
What Causes Weak Gluteus Minimus?
A sedentary lifestyle, a lack of exercise targeting the glute muscles, muscle imbalances, poor posture, injury, and certain medical conditions can cause weak and tight gluteus minimus muscles.
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