Medius and Minimus: The Unsung Glutes

by Warren Rodrick, PT, September 24, 2018

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As many people begin or continue to train their body for competition, fitness, or just to look and feel better, it is common that we lose track of the truly integral structures within our body. This fixation on betterment of our body tends to cause an over-emphasis on developing muscle groups that evoke a traditional image of strength and fitness—e.g., broad shoulders tapering to a narrow waist in males and a smooth hour glass silhouette in females—thus causing many to neglect areas that have as much, if not more, functional relevance.

Perhaps the most jarring of such scenarios is that of the gluteus muscle group. The term “glutes” will typically conjure an image of the gluteus maximus in most people’s minds. This prominent muscle, generically referred to as the “buttocks,” has achieved such cultural prominence due to its large size relative to other muscles, in addition to it’s sought after visual aesthetics. Due to this prevalent desire for well-developed glute maximus muscles, its smaller siblings lying underneath—glute medius and minimus—tend to be overlooked in conventional gym programs. As opposed to the oft celebrated glute max, the primary mover of hip extension (moving leg backward), the smaller glute brothers work together to accomplish hip abduction (moving leg out to side).

Strength disparities caused by placing greater emphasis on developing a specific muscle group, while neglecting another, will cause the body to change its natural mechanics in an attempt compensate. Such compensation will typically lead to greater forces being placed on certain structures, thus overloading them and increasing risk of failure, or injury. The presence of mechanical deficits and asymmetries can be recognized by a skilled therapist via a functional movement assessment. A sign of weakness in the glute medius/minimus can commonly be visualized in what is known as a Trendelenburg sign and/or with walking, in which weakness in one hip will cause the opposite hip/pelvis to drop down when the individual is in a single-leg stance:

Allowing a deficit of this nature to go unaddressed for a prolonged period will likely cause one of the previously described compensations to develop. This can potentially lead to one of the following common injuries:  arthritis in the hips, knees, ankles, and lumbar spine, as well as chronic or traumatic soft tissue disorders in those same areas (tendinitis, bursitis, fascitis, strains, sprains, and tears). Ideally, it would be most beneficial for one to consult a skilled therapist for assessment and devise a proper treatment for prevention. However, even if you have previously experienced one or several of these issues, or recently developed them, a multi-faceted treatment consisting of–but not limited to–movement assessment, pain control, manual therapy, tissue healing, and therapeutic exercise, will maximize one’s daily functionality and minimize risk of future injury.

It is important to remember that our body has many systems and groupings of muscles that control our movements. Balancing our body in an attempt to gain its best strength and stability will allow for us to not only function at our best, but also perform at our best.

Warren Rodrick, DPT, is a Physical Therapist in our Woodbridge office. Warren has worked with Amity PT since graduating from University of Hartford with his Doctorate of Physical Therapy.  Working with patients of all ages and ability levels, Warren prides himself on his commitment to his patients’ goals and providing the individualized care they need. To set up an appointment to see if your Glutes are up to par, contact us at (203) 389-4593.