Forget your toned thighs and buff biceps. We have some bad news: Odds are, your sweat sessions at the gym likely skip over one important muscle—and it could wreak havoc on the joints below your hips. (Don’t miss these quick and easy ways to improve your workout.)
Ever heard of the gluteus medius? You’ll find this thick, muscular band on the outside of your pelvis. As one of three gluteal muscles, it stabilizes your pelvis and helps you move your leg away from your body and rotate your thighs.
“It’s a hard muscle to isolate, so you really don’t see aggressive strengthening,” Farah Hameed, MD, assistant professor of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, told Prevention.
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Although this little-known muscle isn’t immediately recognizable to the average eye, strengthening it is as important as toning your biceps or deltoids. (Try these amazing upper body exercises, too!) It can atrophy if you sit all day. Plus, even if you do stay active, it’s tough to target because we don’t naturally move from side to side like crabs.
But the consequences of ignoring this muscle are pretty serious. A weak gluteus medius can put stress on the knee and create serious misalignments and injuries down the road, Hameed says. Improper alignment places pressure on your foot and ankle, causing them to collapse inward.
“If there is already an imbalance and you then start running, jumping, and putting more force on the joints, it could result in an injury,” Emily Cook Harris, founder/head trainer of Empowered, and creator of NYC FITWeek, told Prevention.
To test your glute’s strength, stand in front of a mirror and squat using one leg. If the hip of lifted leg drops or the knee on your standing leg collapses in toward your midline, you should consider targeting it during your next workout.
Thankfully, you can tone that muscle in no time. Start with side-reclining leg lifts, and then gradually progress to standing mini-band leg raises and single leg squats. For further instructions, visit Prevention.
By the way, if you’re experiencing pelvic pain, you could be at risk for this little-known condition.