Gluteus Minimus: Learn Your Muscles

gluteals and piriformisThe gluteus minimus is the smallest of the three gluteal muscles, which also include gluteus maximus and gluteus medius. Of the three gluteal muscles, it is the deepest. Its primary function is to abduct and medially rotate the femur at the hip joint. Even though this sounds like the gluteus minimus is a primary mover, it really operates as a stabilizer. In fact, this muscles is such an essential stabilizer in the hip joint that, without it, our hips would have an exaggerated sway from side to side as we walk.

Location

The origin of the gluteus minimus is the middle outer surface of the ilium. It is below the origin of the gluteus maximus.

The insertion of the gluteus minimus is the anterior border of the greater trochanter (top notch) of the femur. This means that it inserts on the front of the top notch on the femur.

Essentially, the gluteus minimus is a little, fan-shaped muscle that connects the pelvis to the femur.

Function

Because of the location of the insertion of the gluteus minimus, the muscle can do opposing actions. In this way, it is similar to the deltoid muscle group in the shoulder. The gluteus medius also works in this same way.

For example, when the femur moves anterior to the body (in front of me), the gluteus minimus flexes and internally rotates the femur at the hip joint. However, when the femur is posterior to the body (behind me), the muscles extends and externally rotates the femur at the hip joint.

All of the gluteal muscles work together to abduct and medially rotate the hip joint. This happens every time you take a step. In Functional Anatomy of Yoga, David Keil says:

“Every time we take a step forward, we have to stabilize the pelvis and torso relative to the leg. As we walk, our center of gravity shifts from both legs to one leg. As a result, the bulk of our weight pulls us off the standing leg towards the other side of the body. This pull on our body happens primarily at the hip joint. The glutes on our standing leg contract and stabilize the hip. Through their stabilization, they prevent adduction at the hip. If they didn’t contract, we would fall over or we would walk more like primates, throwing our weight from side to side when upright. You could say that preventing adduction is equal to creating abduction even when there is no actual movement occurring.”

Common Dysfunction

As with all muscles, I’m sure you could sprain, strain, or tear the gluteus minimus. However, most of the issues from this muscle are simply from tightness or dysfunctional movement patterns.

As we learned when studying the psoas and quadriceps (rectus femoris), any time you have a tight muscle that connects to the pelvis, you can have an imbalance or instability in the pelvis. This can result in pain in hips, lower back, and knees.

Restoring or Maintaining Health

So much of joint health is balancing the forces. If you have strong or tight glutes, this will create a pull in one direction. To make sure that you don’t get injured, you will need to balance that pull with strong adductors.

In addition to needing opposing muscle strength, we also need flexibility. Do stretches such as Fire log or Figure 4 to stretch the glutes. Warrior 3 is a great pose to strengthen the gluteus minimus.

More Information

For more information, I recommend “The Gluteus Minimus Muscle” by David Keil. He has a wonderful yoga anatomy book that I enjoy. That book is called Functional Anatomy of Yoga. Here is a link to buy it on Amazon. When you buy this book through this link, I earn a small commission.

Another book that I find helpful is The Concise Book of Muscles by Chris Jarmey. I used lots of information from his book while writing this post. The link I have provided is to an updated version of the book I have. It appears to be a very thorough update, although I have not personally looked through the whole book.

Have you given thought to your gluteus minimus? What do you do to keep it balanced? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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