7 Hip Abductor Exercises to Work the Small Glute Muscles in Your Butt

If you want to give your glutes the greatest burn, it’s important to add some hip abductor exercises into your regular butt workout. Many times when people work their glutes, they focus only on the gluteus maximus, the largest muscle in your butt.

But there are actually three muscles that make up your butt—the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus are the smaller two along the side—and focusing on all of them is super important, Alicia Jamison, C.P.T., a coach at Body Space Fitness in New York City, tells SELF. Your glutes play an important role in stabilizing your pelvic system, the area which connects your trunk and your legs, and working all of these muscles is vital for doing that effectively.

“When you increase the activation of those two other smaller muscles, they help you activate the rest of your core and your pelvic stabilization systems,” Jamison says. That’s important, since strength in these muscles can help prevent low back pain as well as help you lift heavier weights during your workout.

You activate your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus—which are known as your hip abductors—with different movement patterns than your gluteus max.

Hip abductor exercises work in the frontal plane of movement, says Jamison. That’s the side-to-side movement you get when you raise your leg to the side of your body, or when you step out to the side, like with a lateral lunge. Gluteus maximus exercises, on the other hand, work primarily in the sagittal plane of movement. That’s the back and forth movement you get with flexion and extension, like when you go down into a squat and come back up.

In a well-rounded glute workout, you’d ideally be working all three of your glute muscles. But since most people tend to have lesser-developed hip abductors compared to their glute max, this butt workout will focus more on the hip abductor exercises to make sure you’re building balanced strength in your glutes.

Ready to give this hip abductor workout a try? Read on below.

The Workout

What you need: A light mini-band, a pair of light dumbbells, and a sturdy box or step. (You can also do the moves shown with a dumbbell with just your bodyweight). An exercise mat can make some of the exercises more comfortable.


Circuit 1:

Circuit 2 (Finisher):

  • Banded clamshell

  • Banded jumping jacks


  • Complete 8-12 reps (do that amount on each side for the single-leg moves) of each exercise, going from one to the next without rest. Complete 2-3 rounds total. Rest for 60 to 90 seconds before going into the finisher.

  • Complete 15-20 reps (do that amount on each side for the clamshell) of each move, going from one to the next without rest. Compete 1-3 rounds total.

Demoing the moves below are Amanda Wheeler (GIF 1), a certified strength and conditioning specialist and co-founder of Formation Strength; Nikki Pebbles, a New York City–based fitness instructor for over nine years and an AFAA- and NCCPT-certified personal trainer and group fitness trainer (GIFs 2 and 5); Krystal Salvent (GIF 3), NASM-certified personal trainer in New York City; Cookie Janee (GIF 4); a background investigator and security forces specialist in the Air Force Reserve; Salma Nakhlawi (GIF 6), the founder of StrongHer Girls; and Lena Marti (GIF 7), a NASM-certified personal trainer in New York City.

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