What are your glutes?

by Jun 27, 2018Anatomy, Health and Wellness, Injuries

What do the glutes muscles do?

The muscles in the gluteal region help move your lower body at the hip joint. These muscles are found behind your pelvic girdle, right above your femur. Gluteal muscles play a very important role in maintaining pelvic stability, hip stability, upright posture, and locomotion (ie. walking, running, swimming, climbing, etc.).

Together, your gluteal muscles extend your leg, rotate your leg – internally and externally, and move your leg towards, and away from your body.

Gluteal Muscles

Why Do We Need Strong Glutes?

  • The constant pressure and disuse from sitting for long periods of time will lead to weak glutes

  • Your glutes play an important role in keeping your pelvis stable, having weak glutes may lead to low back pain

  • Weak gluteal muscles have been associated with several lower body conditions, including lower back pain, difficulty with day to day tasks such as rising from a seated position or climbing stairs, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprains, and chronic ankle instability.

  • Training your gluteal muscles properly and frequently can help prevent injury and improve sport performance

The gluteal muscles can be divided into two main groups:

1. superficial gluteal muscles
2. deep gluteal muscles.

Below you’ll find a breakdown of these groups and exactly what each of the muscles in them do.

Superficial Gluteal Muscles

Your superficial gluteal muscles are all in charge of either extending your leg backwards, or away from your body.  These superficial muscles include the three that make up your bum (your gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus,) and your tensor fascia latae (commonly called the IT band), all of which extend from your hip bone to your femur (thigh). 

Gluteus Maximus

Your gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in your body. Making up a large portion of the shape and appearance of your hips, it’s the gluteal muscle closest to your skin. Being the main extensor of the thigh, it is very powerful. When you’re moving, your gluteus maximus supports your weight, propels you forward, and helps control your trunk. Your gluteus maximus supports your knee when it’s extended and is also very active during running, sprinting, and climbing; meaning it’s functionally important in a lot of rapid and powerful movements.

Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus

Your gluteus medius is a broad, thick, fan-shaped muscle that sits right on the side of your hip. It is much smaller than the big gluteus maximus muscle. Your gluteus minimus is the deepest and smallest of these superficial gluteal muscles. Found right under your gluteus medius, your gluteus minimus is very similar to the medius, having the same shape and playing the same role. 

Why are they important

  • These two muscles play a key role in helping stabilize your pelvis

  • Both gluteus medius and minimus help steady your pelvis during walking and running, preventing your body from falling to one side

  • A weak gluteus medius and minimus can make it difficult to bear weight on a single leg

We want our pelvis to remain neutral while we walk. A pelvis that is not neutral while walking, is often caused by a weak gluteus medius and minimus. This can lead to other problems, further along the lower limb or back pain. 

trendelenburg sign

The trendelenburg sign, when the hips can not stay even during walking is a sign that the gluteus medius or minimus are weak.

Tensor Fascia Lata (IT Band)

This small muscle is also more commonly called the IT band. If you are a big runner or sit all day this muscle often gets very tight and it is important to stretch this muscle often. 

Deep Gluteal Muscles

Your deep gluteal muscles are a set of smaller muscles under your gluteus minimus that help laterally rotate your femur. This group of muscles includes your piriformis, quadratus femoris, and obturator internus; they also help stabilize your hip joint by keeping your femur (the thigh) secured inside the socket of your pelvis.


A tight piriformis muscle can literally be a pain in the butt. We want to pay special attention to your piriformis muscle. This muscle can get particularly tight for individuals who spend a long time sitting. When the piriformis muscle gets tight, it can place pressure on the sciatic nerve. This can cause pain in the buttocks, and is called piriformis syndrome. Piriformis syndrome is a bit different from sciatica, you can read more about sciatica here.

Obturator Internus and Quadratus Femoris

These two muscles make up the lateral walls of your pelvic cavity and like your piriformis, mainly helps in laterally rotating your thigh, and helping move your thigh away from your body.

Overall, it is important to keep your glutes strong both for athletic performance and to prevent pain pain or other injuries. Visit Westcoast SCI to meet with our kinesiology or physiotherapy team to learn more.

Banner/Thumbnail Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels


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