Get to Know Your Glutes

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The outward appearance of the gluteal group, particularly our grand gluteus maximus, causes as much pride as consternation in our culture than perhaps any other muscle set. The truth is, the muscles that make up this key cluster at the posterior of our bodies deserve to be honored for the amazing work they perform for us everyday-regardless of their outward appearance.

Gluteal Group - Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius & Gluteus Minimus

Three different muscles make up the Gluteal group.

There are several muscle sets located at the hips, and we’ve met a few of them in previous Yoga Tune Up® blogs, including the Tensor Fasciae Latae and the Piriformis.  Here we will examine the gluteal group, and the Yoga Tune Up ® exercises that can provide flexibility and strength to this area. We will discover that one common result of tightness and over-training of this group of muscles is once again low back pain, and limitations in one’s yoga practice as well. As usual, inordinate amounts of time in any activity: sitting at work, riding the bicycle, the horse, or even running, creates imbalances through under or over use.

In yoga, as in life, symmetry, equanimity, and the realization that the impact of our actions will reverberate throughout our being can motivate us to become more aware and conscious. In this case, let’s raise glute consciousness.

The three muscles of the gluteal group are Gluteus Maximus, Medius, and Minimus. Their names reflect the size of the muscle, and somewhat indicate their location from superficial (maximus) to deep (minimus).

Gluteus Maximus

The strong gluteus maximus is closest to the skin’s surface. It’s work is to extend the hip. For example, when taking Warrior I in yoga, it works with the hamstrings to extend the back leg. This muscle also externally rotates the hip, and helps to move the thigh away from the body (abduction).

Now, we wouldn’t want to continue discussion the gluteal group without acknowledgement of the padding and insulation in the buttock area. This padding and insulation is called adipose tissue, and by and large this tissue (otherwise known as um, fat) is necessary and a good thing, in moderation. (For recent information on the advantages of the “pear” shape see):

So as we discover our glutes, you’ll also encounter your adipose…tissue. Stand with your feet hip width apart, take a giant step back as in a simple lunge or Warrior I. Place your hand on the buttock of the back leg. You should feel the gluteus maximus contract.

Gluteus Medius

The gluteus medius is located more to the upper outer part of the hip. It is partially covered by the gluteus maximus muscle. The Gluteus Medius is crucial for stabilizing and equalizing, or as we say in Yoga Tune Up®, joint-stacking our hips. The classic side lying leg lift exercise helps to target and strengthen the gluteus medius. In yoga, the back leg in triangle also activates the gluteus medius.

Gluteus Minimus

The Gluteus Minimus is situated beneath the gluteus medius. The minimus stabilizes our hips, rotates our thigh inward, and also abducts the hips. Some of these yoga poses to strengthen glutes are opposite of the gluteus maximus, but the gluteal group is so large that it can work in many different directions to keep the hip in harmony.

Wake Up Your Gluteus Medius

For a wonderful awakening of the gluteus medius, practice the Yoga Tune Up® pose Leg stretch #3.

And remember to appreciate your glutes for the functions they perform for us in everyday activities!

Watch our Free 5-Minute Quickfix: Hips Video

Learn about our programs to relieve hip pain.

Learn about our Therapy Balls Program for your lower back.

Bonnie Golden

Bonnie is extremely proud to be a licensed Yoga Tune Up® teacher, and joyfully shares the work of Yoga Tune Up®. She also holds her 200 hour RYT certification from Tias LIttles’ Prajna Yoga, and successfully completed Relax and Renew® training with Judith Lasater and Roger Cole in 2005. Her 30 years of teaching adults is infused with her own love of lifelong learning, and she will always be a student of yoga, meditation, and life. For more about me or to view my Yoga Tune Up® class schedule go here.

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Karen McGovern

Very clear and informative information about the gluteal group. I have plenty of adipose tissues good to know I should appreciate it’s insulation.


Thanks for sharing! Completely agree that these 3 muscles are important to get to know and not neglect.

Kammy Fung

‘Back leg of triangle pose target the gluteal medius’ Finally I know which part of gluteal I’m working on the pose. After reading this article, learn the importance of gluteal medius related to pelvis stability. Now is the time work on yoga tuneup pose leg stretch #3

Mona Laflamme

Thanks Bonnie, this was helpfull and very clear!


This blog was so helpful!! you taught me about the ‘adipose tissue!’ I was wondering what I could call that area and what is actually in there, and all I could come up with was ‘gluteal meat.’ hahaha, Okay, now I know! Thank You!

Vickie Frei

Thank you for the detail article about the glute muscles. This is such an important muscle group of the body, so many people are walking around with glute amnesia. Considering that gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body, it shouldn’t spend so much of it’s time being turned off. If more of our older population continued to strengthen their glutes they would he able to continue an increased quality of life.

Sheena Nadeau

The gluteus group is my most favorite muscle group! It has so much potential to align the entire body. They have so many muscle actions that we don’t realize! Thank you for this!


Thanks for this article! I’ve found that a combination of Yoga Tune Up exercises and Pilates have really helped my proprioception of the gluteus group. I’ve been practicing yoga for over a decade, with minimal awareness of my glutes before discovering YTU and pilates.

Eva Hamilton

Thanks for this article & providing some clarity into the separate roles & functions of the glutes. It is rare in a general yoga class environment to really hear their separate locations & jobs differentiated, rather than just referenced in passing as one synonymous group.

Kyrin Hall

Thanks for your explanation of the location and different actions of each of the gluteal muscles. often we lump them all together – now I will put emphasis on isolating and strengthening each part of the muscle group separately.

Dana Healey

Our Glutes get weak just by sitting too much. I normally have an anterior tight to my pelvic but sitting for prolong periods of time causes back pain and my pelvis immediately posteriorly tilts and it take me 5-10 minutes before I’m fulling standing upright again. I need stronger glues and better posture while it, should we engage our glutes while we sit?

Julia Lamm

Thank you for the detailed explanation of the glutes. When i learn how to engage my glutes in various poses such as cobra, worrier, and chair poses, I feel the pose becomes more powerful. I also started to pay attention to glute activation in walking. Strong and supple glutes are good support for the lower back.

martina sturm

glut muscles are so often weak due to all the sitting we do and most often even imbalances are there between the 2 sides. More attention to the gluts and rebalancing them is something most people can use. thanks for the attention on the subject!

Melissa Williams

Thank you for your detail about location and the relationship via depth. I appreciate this article!

Cindy DeCoste

It’s so true that excessive amounts of time in any activity (in my case sitting at a desk for work) creates imbalances in our body, mind, and life and can motivate us to become more aware and conscious! I appreciate your explanations for the directions of movement of the gluteal muscle. I recently discovered in my YTU Level 1 training, while doing a similar exercise to activate the gluteus maximus to the one you described in your post, that my right gluteus maximus is much weaker and less toned that my left gluteus maximus. I’m not sure why this is,… Read more »

Gabrielle Acher

Thank you for shedding some much need light on the role that each of three gluteal muscles take in movement of the body. It has given me a new appreciation of how nest to prepare my fellow yoga students for the more challenging one legged balances and for the proper gait for my beginners when practising tree pose.