Baking a Cake

By: Charlotte Miller

“Squeeze your butt”

“Do your squats” 

“Get that cake”

Oh, the never-ending phrases to describe a good butt and a good butt workout! We have all heard the advice to ‘do your squats’ to get a tight and high butt, amongst various other things. These all-too-familiar recommendations come from trainers, workout classes, and even friends. When we workout it is important to educate ourselves on what muscles are at work during a given exercise movement. 

The first thing I think of in reference to butt muscles is the glutes! You might be familiar with the term ‘glutes’ which, in general, refers to the gluteus maximus. This is the main muscle that makes up the butt. Behind, above, and surrounding the gluteus maximus is the gluteus medius. The gluteus medius gives your butt that round feature, hello bubble butt! The gluteus minimus lies behind the gluteus medius. Let’s take a closer look at these three muscles and how they function for movement and exercise. 

Gluteus Maximus

Say hello to the largest muscle in the body: the gluteus maximus. This muscle is what gives your butt its primary shape and being that it is the largest muscle, it is often the strongest muscle as well. Its main function is to “extend and laterally rotate the hip joint” (source) which helps rotate your hips inward (adduction) and outward (abduction) (Moore, et al., 2013). The gluteus maximus also maintains posture (Heffernan, 2020). The best workouts to target this muscle are movements that require hip movement and rotation. This includes forward step-ups, lunges, squats, clamshells, wall squats, and deadlifts.

Gluteus Medius

Figure 2. Gluteus medius in red. Retrieved from:

The gluteus medius is located on the exterior of the butt, or the top and sides. It is responsible for stability and posture as well as balance (Heffernan, 2020). It allows the legs to move from side to side, assisting primarily in abduction, or outward movement (Moore, et al., 2013). Since the gluteus medius aids in balance, exercises that require you to balance on one leg directly target this muscle group. Exercises include clamshells, single-leg deadlifts, lunges, curtsey lunges. 

Gluteus Minimus

 {See Figure 3 below}

The gluteus minimus is the smallest of the three gluteal muscles, hence ‘minimus’. This muscle has similar functions to the gluteus medius in that it aids in hip rotation, specifically thigh abduction, and stability (Heffernan, 2020). It aids in supporting the thigh when standing on one foot. Similar exercises to strengthen and tone the gluteus medius also work the gluteus minimus. These include clam shells, side plank variations, curtsey lunges, bridges. 

As seen above, three muscles make up the gluteal region. Although there are exercises that target a specific gluteal muscle, most exercises that target one of these muscles will strengthen and tone the others as well. It’s important to mention that core and back exercises also aid in strengthening gluteal muscles as well. They are all connected afterall! Going forward, I hope you can take this knowledge with you into the gym or during your at-home workout routine! 

Reference List:

Gluteus Maximus. (2021). Physiopedia, . Retrieved January 19, 2021, from

Gluteus Medius. (2021). Physiopedia, . Retrieved January 19, 2021, from

Heffernan, A. (2020). Butt Anatomy: Gluteal Muscles and How to Build ‘Em. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from 

Moore, K. L., Dalley, A. F., & Agur, A. M. (2013). Clinically oriented anatomy (7th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Vaskovi, J. (2020). Gluteus minimus muscle. Retrieved January 19, 2021, from 

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