Upper Glute Exercises

Middle aged yogi female in yoga Side Plank Pose
A side plank leg raise can tone your upper glute in addition to offering other benefits. (Image: fizkes/iStock/Getty Images)

The upper glutes remain an area of focus for those seeking to improve their physique; however, these muscles are significant for reasons other than looks. Including exercises such as one leg balances, hip abductions and hip extensions will tone the gluteus medius and minimus while increasing your strength and balance.

Leg Extensions

Quadruped leg extensions are more effective for the gluteus medius than squats, according to an American Council of Exercise research study led by John Porcari, PhD, and Blake Ristvedt, MA. Begin on the floor with your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees directly under your hips. To prevent injury and to isolate the glutes, keep a straight spine and contract your abdominal muscles. Then, lift one of your legs behind you to hip level while keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle. Then lower it. Squeeze a dumbbell behind your knee for added intensity.

Lifting Lunges

The lunge is a strengthening exercise that requires balance. The lunge also significantly strengthens the medius better than a squat, according to ACE. Begin by standing with your feet facing forward, hip distance apart, and be sure to maintain proper form throughout the exercise by keeping your head and spine lifted. Take a large step forward with one leg and lower your back knee as close to the floor as possible while you bend your front leg at the knee. Hold the position for a count and then return to the starting position.

Side Plank Plus for Your Posterior

The side plank leg raise is a challenging hip abduction exercise that requires a lot of balance to strengthen the minimus and medius. To do one, lie on one side with your legs, hips and shoulders stacked and in a straight line. Then place your bottom elbow directly under your bottom shoulder and rest on your forearm. Keep your top arm in front of your chest to prevent yourself from rolling forward or backward. Lift your torso, hips and legs off of the ground and support your body weight on your bottom foot and forearm. Then lift your top leg up and down.

The Clam

The clam may not seem hard, but your medius will be on fire after doing a set of this abduction exercise. Begin by lying on your side with your knees stacked in front of your hips with your legs together. Keep your legs bent as you externally rotate your top knee so that it lines up with your hip. Pause and then lower it. Keep your feet together when doing this exercise to isolate the upper glutes and use slow and controlled movements for maximum effectiveness.

Repetitions Sets and Recomendations

Perform these exercises as an addition to your regular workout or, if you are doing them alone, do lunges as part of an effective warm-up. For each of these exercises, complete one to three sets on each side for 30 to 60 seconds. If you are a beginner, take your time with these exercises and progressively work up to doing them longer or doing more sets with greater intensity. If you experience severe pain or discomfort when doing the exercises, check in with your physician before continuing the program.

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