An examination of the gluteal muscle activity associated with dynamic hip abduction and hip external rotation exercise: a systematic review

Document Type

Journal Article


American Physical Therapy Association

Place of Publication

United States


Faculty of Health, Engineering and Science


School of Medical and Health Sciences




Macadam, P., Cronin, J., & Contreras, B. (2015). An examination of the gluteal muscle activity associated with dynamic hip abduction and hip external rotation exercise: a systematic review. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 10(5), 573-591. Available here


Background: A wide variety of hip abduction and hip external rotation exercises are used for training, both in athletic performance and in rehabilitation programming. Though several different exercises exist, a comprehensive understanding of which exercises best target the gluteus maximus (Gmax) and gluteus medius (Gmed) and the magnitude of muscular activation associated with each exercise is yet to be established. Purpose: The purpose of this systematic review was to quantify the electromyographic (EMG) activity of exercises that utilize the Gmax and Gmed muscles during hip abduction and hip external rotation. Methods: Pubmed, Sports Discuss, Web of Science and Science Direct were searched using the Boolean phrases (gluteus medius OR gluteus maximus) AND (activity OR activation) AND (electromyography OR EMG) AND (hip abduction OR hip external rotation). A systematic approach was used to evaluate 575 articles. Articles that examined injury-free participants of any age, gender or activity level were included. No restrictions were imposed on publication date or publication status. Articles were excluded when not available in English, where studies did not normalize EMG activity to maximum voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC), where no hip abduction or external rotation motion occurred or where the motion was performed with high acceleration. Results: Twenty-three studies met the inclusion criteria and were retained for analysis. The highest Gmax activity was elicited during the lateral step up, cross over step up and rotational single leg squat (ranging from 79 to 113 % MVIC). Gmed activity was highest during the side bridge with hip abduction, standing hip abduction with elastic resistance at the ankle and side lying hip abduction (ranging from 81 to 103 % MVIC). Limitations: The methodological approaches varied between studies, notably in the different positions used for obtaining MVIC, which could have dramatically impacted normalized levels of gluteal activation, while variation also occurred in exercise technique and/or equipment. Conclusions: The findings from this review provide an indication for the amount of muscle activity generated by basic strengthening and rehabilitation exercises, which may assist practitioners in making decisions for Gmax and Gmed strengthening and injury rehabilitation programs

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