What Are The Different Parts Of The Glutes?
Many people hear the word glutes and think of one muscle, but there are actually 3 different muscles that make up what we call ‘the glutes’. Keep reading to learn more about the different parts of the glutes so you can better understand your body.
Learning About Your Body
Learning and understanding your body is so important. This is the knowledge that I cherish most from my physical therapy education. This knowledge not only helps me to be more effective in my workouts, it also allows me to be more in tune with what’s going on with my body.
It helps me to connect with my body on a deeper level.
With these types of posts where I teach you about specific muscles or areas of the body, I hope to help you find more connection with your own body. While learning about the glutes may seem small in the scheme of the entire human body, it’s still bringing you closer to that understanding.
The Three Different Parts Of The Glutes
There are 3 different muscles that make up what we call ‘the glutes’.
You have the gluteus maximus, the gluteus medius, and the gluteus minimus. All of the glute muscles are hip muscles meaning that they all work to move or stabilize your hip joint.
Your hip joint is similar to your shoulder joint in that it is a ball and socket joint. Ball and socket joints move in more directions than other joints in the body. You can see an example of what this looks like in the image below.
To work the entire glute muscle group which consists of three distinct parts, you’ll need to engage in a variety of different movements. We’ll cover this in more detail as we discuss each muscle individually.
The Gluteus Maximus
The gluteus maximus (glute max) is the muscle that you probably think of when you think of the glutes. It’s the largest of the 3 glute muscles and is the most superficial (meaning it’s closer to the skin).
If you don’t know the difference between a superficial and deep muscle, let me give you an example. In your calf you have a muscle called the gastrocnemius that is superficial, so if someone has well defined calf muscles, this is the muscle you’d see. A muscle called the soleus is a deep calf muscle, so even if someone has a super strong soleus, you wouldn’t really see any difference physically.
But remember, this doesn’t mean that it’s not important to keep the deep muscles strong. The deep muscles are often important for keeping our joints stable so they are just as important as the superficial muscles if not more important.
Ok, back to the gluteus maximus…
The glute max muscle covers the back part of your pelvis and hip joints.
The glute max moves your hip into what is called extension. If you were standing and brought one leg straight back, that would be hip extension and the glute max would activate.
When you stand up from sitting in a chair, the hips also move into extension so the glute max again activates.
Some of the hamstring muscles also activate with hip extension so the hamstrings and glute max often work together.
But the glute max is responsible for more than just this motion. Along with some other hip muscles, the glute max also helps to externally rotate your hip. If you stand with your feet facing forward and then move your legs so your toes are pointing outward, this is hip external rotation.
To strengthen the glute max, you’ll want to do exercises that include hip extension and hip external rotation. Some exercises that are great for building glute max strength include squats, deadlifts, standing hip extension, and clamshells.
The Gluteus Medius
The next part of the glutes is called the gluteus medius (glute med). Part of the glute med is superficial and part of it is deep and covered by the glute max.
This muscle is located closer to the outside of your hips.
The gluteus medius is a very important muscle and is not one that should be forgotten about!
The main job of the glute med is to move your leg out to the side (this is called hip abduction). The other major job of the glute med is to keep your pelvis stable when you stand on one leg and when you’re walking around.
The front part of the glute med helps to internally rotate your thigh (turning your leg so that your toes point in) and the back part of the glute med helps to externally rotate your thigh (turning your leg so that your toes point out).
Some great strengthening exercises for the glute med include side steps, side planks, single leg deadlifts, and side-lying hip abduction.
The Gluteus Minimus
The gluteus minimus (glute min) is the smallest of the 3 different parts of the glutes. It’s located right underneath the glute med.
The primary functions of the glute min include stabilizing your hips and assisting the glute med in hip abduction. Additionally, the glute min contributes to hip internal rotation.
Glute min exercises are similar to glute med exercises.
To work the glute min, exercises that require stability like side planks and single leg deadlifts are great. And since the glute min helps with hip abduction, things like side steps and side-lying hip abduction are also good for strengthening this muscle.
Now you know all about the 3 different parts of the glutes. As a recap, you have the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus. Each of the glute muscles are important.
Learning details about your body can be helpful for so many different reasons. You don’t need to have gone to medical school to have an understanding of the body.
I like to say, we are all living in a human body here on Earth so we should all take time to learn about it!
And don’t forget to download your free glute activation guide right here 🙂
Read This Next: Can Your Hip Flexors Be Both Tight & Weak?
Elzanie A, Borger J. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gluteus Maximus Muscle. [Updated 2023 Apr 1]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538193/
Greco AJ, Vilella RC. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gluteus Minimus Muscle. [Updated 2023 May 22]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK556144/
Shah A, Bordoni B. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis and Lower Limb, Gluteus Medius Muscle. [Updated 2023 Feb 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK557509