Man does a lateral lunge, a gluteus minimus exercise

5 Gluteus Minimus Exercises to Strengthen Your Lower Body

This small muscle deserves your attention.

By Amber SayerJanuary 5, 2024


Whether you identify as a runner, cyclist, or gym rat, you’re likely aware of the importance of your glutes. As one of the critical muscle groups in your lower body, your glutes power your daily movements. They’re made up of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. And while most glute-focused workouts target the gluteus maximus—the largest and strongest muscle of the three—it’s also crucial to pay attention to the other two. 

In this piece, we’ll focus on one of these, the gluteus minimus, looking at the function of this small (but mighty) muscle, as well as the best exercises to strengthen it.

Breaking Down Your Glutes

The Gluteus Maximus

The gluteus maximus is primarily responsible for hip extension, which occurs when you bring your leg back behind your body. This muscle makes up the majority of your buttock. You often engage it while climbing stairs, running, jumping, and squatting

The Gluteus Medius

The gluteus medius is slightly smaller than the gluteus maximus and works with other muscles to prompt hip abduction, the movement in which you bring your leg out to the side. Located in the upper portion of your buttock, it also plays a pivotal role in stabilizing your hips. Having strength in this muscle keeps your pelvis relatively level while walking or running. 

The Gluteus Minimus 

Known as the smallest muscle of the three, the gluteus minimus works in conjunction with the gluteus medius to abduct your leg at the hip. (It's also located right at your hip joint.) “It helps with hip movement and stabilization, playing a role in activities like walking and maintaining balance,” says Adrian Williams, a Peloton instructor. 

The Benefits of Gluteus Minimus Exercises

Even though this muscle may be smaller than the other two, the benefits of working it aren’t. Adrian highlights several reasons why having a strong gluteus minimus is important, including: 

  • Contributes to hip stability and strength

  • Aids your balance 

  • Supports a proper gait

  • Helps prevent injuries

  • Boosts your overall lower body functionality

How Do You Activate Your Gluteus Minimus?

Hip abduction exercises (bringing your leg out to the side) will activate your gluteus minimus. To see what it feels like to engage this muscle, place your hand on the side of your butt, just behind your ball-and-socket hip joint. While lying down on your side, raise your top leg toward the ceiling. Lift from your glutes—instead of your inner thighs—to activate the gluteus minimus. Feel the contraction of the muscle as you elevate your leg. 

Certain cues can enhance the mind-body connection between your brain and gluteus minimus and help you activate this muscle while exercising, Adrian says. “Use cues like squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement and maintaining proper form to ensure activation of the gluteus minimus,” he says. 

5 Gluteus Minimus Exercises

Many of the exercises that target your gluteus minimus will also support your gluteus medius. These two gluteal muscles work together to enable and control hip abduction, as well as strengthen and stabilize your hips and pelvis. Below, we break down five movements to try. 

Woman does side-lying leg lifts, a gluteus minimus exercise

1. Side-Lying Leg Lift 

This simple exercise strengthens your gluteus minimus and gluteus medius, as well as your pelvic floor and core. If you’re a beginner, start by using only your body weight. Over time, you can opt to add ankle weights. 

  1. Lie on the right side of your body. Keep your legs straight and stacked on top of one another. If desired, prop your head up with one arm. 

  2. Lift your left leg toward the ceiling. Keep the leg straight. Slowly lower it back down.

  3. Perform 15 to 20 reps. Switch sides.

Ally Love doing fire hydrants

2. Fire Hydrants

In addition to strengthening your gluteus minimus and gluteus medius, this exercise develops your deep core and shoulder muscles. You can also opt to add ankle weights to this movement.  

  1. Start in a tabletop position on your hands and knees. Keep your core tight and your back flat. 

  2. Engage your core to stabilize your pelvis. 

  3. Keeping your right knee bent, lift your right leg out to the side. Stop when your knee is in line with your hip. Pause for two to three seconds.

  4. Return to the starting position. 

  5. Perform 15 reps on each side.

Woman does clamshell exercise, a gluteus minimus exercise

3. Clamshells

  1. Lie on your left side with your knees stacked on top of one another. Your legs should create a 90-degree angle. 

  2. Keeping your feet glued together, lift your right knee toward the ceiling, opening your hips and groin by rotating your top hip. 

  3. Slowly lower the leg back down. 

  4. Complete 10 to 15 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

4. Side Steps

Complete this gluteus minimus exercise with a small loop resistance band. Focus on moving as slowly as possible and always maintaining some tension on the band.

  1. Stand upright with good posture. Place your hands on your hips and a small loop resistance band around your ankles.

  2. Keep your core and glutes engaged. Maintain a straight back and lift your chest up. Take a big step out to the right with your right foot. Your knees can stay straight or have a slight bend. 

  3. Step your left foot towards the right foot, making sure to leave enough distance between your feet that there’s tension on the band. 

  4. Take 20 to 30 steps to the right. Head back by leading with the left leg, taking another 20 to 30 steps. 

Man does a lateral lunge, a gluteus minimus exercise

5. Lateral Lunges

In addition to strengthening your gluteus minimus, this exercise works the adductors in your inner thighs, quads, and core muscles. 

  1. Stand with good posture with your hands at your sides. To advance this movement, hold a dumbbell at your shoulder. 

  2. Step your right leg out to the right side, shifting your weight to your  right leg as you bend your right knee. Keep your left knee straight and toes pointing forward.

  3. When your right knee is bent to at least a 90-degree angle, press through your right foot and engage your glutes to return to the starting position.

  4. Complete 15 reps. Switch sides and repeat. 


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