The Gluteus Muscles of the Buttocks

Gluteus maximus
The glutes are comprised of three muscles, the largest being the gluteus maximus. Images

The gluteus muscles are the main muscles of the buttocks. There are three superficial muscles, in decreasing size: gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus.

Often known as the "glutes," they abduct and extend the femur (thigh). The gluteus muscles are instrumental in the chain of muscles, including the hamstrings, that assist in getting up from a seated position, climbing stairs and running.

They contribute to running speed.

The gluteus maximus gives shape to the buttocks and often workouts are designed for those seeking a firm butt. Exercises and activities that strengthen the glutes are hip extensions, hip abductions, squats, and sprinting.

Pronunciation: glu-tee-us

Also Known As: glutes

Anatomy of the Gluteus Muscles

The gluteal muscles originate on the posterior surface of the ilium, the hipbone, and insert on the greater trochanter at the top of the femur, the thighbone. They are the "hip bone is connected to the thigh bone" muscles.

The gluteus maximus is the largest and one of the strongest muscles of the human body. It originates both on the ilium and at the sacrum and coccyx at the base of the spine. In addition to the hipbone connection, it attaches to the iliotibial tract which connects to the tibia, the shinbone. The gluteus medius lies under the maximus. The gluteus minimus is under the medius.

They are innervated by the inferior and superior gluteal nerves.

What Do the Glutes Do?

The gluteus maximus extends the thigh, pulling back as you rise from a seated position, climb a step up a stairway, or run. It also rotates the thigh outward. It is mostly used when force is needed rather than in walking.

The gluteus medius and minimus abduct the thigh, allowing it to rotate outward. They are used in waking and running by stabilizing the pelvis when you take a step. The hip would sag forward if it weren't for the glutes on the supporting leg contracting while the other foot is off the ground.

Exercises for the Gluteal Muscles

The glutes are targeted by body shapers who want firm buttocks or who hope to increase their buttock size.

Functional exercises that work the gluteal muscles include running, stair climbing, and standing up from a seated position. Recreational activities like hiking and kickboxing can also give a glute workout.

Compound exercises for the glutes include low squats, continuing the squat below the parallel line of the thighs so your gluteal muscles must work to raise you back up. Weighted walking low lunges and step-ups also work the glutes.

Isolation exercises for the gluteal muscles include hip extensions and hip abductions.

The Gluteus Muscle Injuries and Physical Therapy

Muscle and tendon tears can happen due to falls. Hip bursitis can occur in the bursa between the gluteal muscles. The weakness of the gluteus medius, thought to be triggered by tight hip flexor muscles, can contribute to knee and hip pain.


Moore, K. L., & Dalley, A. F. (1999). Clinically oriented anatomy. (4th edition ed.). Williams & Wilkins.