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Master the Lateral Band Walk for a Stronger Gluteus Medius

ISSA, International Sports Sciences Association, Certified Personal Trainer, ISSAonline,

Reading Time: 4 minutes 40 seconds

No total body or lower body workout is complete without glute activation exercises. The question is whether the lateral band walk ever makes an appearance in your client’s workout routines. 

If not, they may not be building the strength and form they want in their backside. Understanding why begins with a basic knowledge of the gluteal muscles. And it ends with learning how to perform the lateral walk with proper form.

Basic Glute Anatomy

When we talk about the glutes, we’re actually talking about three different muscles. They are the: 

  • gluteus maximus – the largest gluteus muscle and also the most superficial, providing the buttocks a majority of their shape
  • gluteus medius – this muscle is found below the iliac crest, near the pelvis; often referred to as the “side glutes”
  • gluteus minimus – the smallest gluteus muscle and the one that sits the deepest, right beneath the gluteus medius

All three of these muscles serve important purposes. The gluteus maximus, for instance, makes hip extension and rotation possible. You can target this muscle with exercises such as a squat or glute bridge. The gluteus minimus assists with both hip stability and hip abduction. If you want to make this muscle stronger, the lying leg lift and side plank deliver.

What about the gluteus medius? These side glutes are the primary muscle worked in the lateral band walk and used in hip abductor movements. Why is this so important?

Why Strong Side Glute Muscles Are a Must

Strong gluteus medius muscles help us perform everyday activities such as walking to the mailbox or pushing a stroller in the park. They also play a role in certain physical activities and sports.

Runners, for instance, rely on this glute muscle when on the road or trail. A 2016 review adds that the faster you run, the more the medius is worked. That makes building this muscle critical to sports performance, particularly if you want to increase your endurance.

Research has also connected certain gluteus medius activation patterns with a greater risk of low back pain. This is partially because the medius helps absorb some of the force every time your foot strikes the ground. (Low back pain is a major issue for many, impacting roughly 31 million Americans according to the American Chiropractic Association.)

Other studies report that strengthening the gluteus medius can assist with knee injury recovery. It works by improving function while also reducing knee pain.

How The Lateral Walk Exercise Boosts Gluteal Muscle Strength

Because the lateral walk involves getting into a partial squat position and moving side to side, it targets the gluteus medius. Technically, you can do this same movement without a resistance band. However, the use of a band increases resistance, providing greater strength gains.

Doing this resistance band exercise correctly means that you’re targeting your desired muscles. For instance, you don’t want to step too far to the right or left during the lateral walk. The use of a resistance band can help prevent this from occurring.

The Lateral Band Walk for Stronger Side Glutes: Mastering Form

Performing the lateral band walk with the right form increases its safety and effectiveness. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Place the exercise band just above your ankles and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. 
  2. Bend your knees and drop into a partial squat position. At this point, your body weight is balanced on both the right and left leg.
  3. Shift your weight to your right leg and step to the left with your left foot.
  4. Follow with your right foot, stepping down about shoulder-width from the left foot.
  5. Take another step to the left using the same approach.
  6. Now shift your weight to the left leg and step to the right.
  7. Follow with your left foot, stepping down when it is about should width from the right foot.
  8. Take another step to the right taking the same approach
  9. Continue repeating this pattern for the desired number of sets and reps, or your desired duration.

Keeping proper form throughout this exercise means that your back is straight and your abs are engaged. There is no upper body movement. The only thing that should be moving is your lower body.

Additionally, when stepping, don’t allow the knee to extend beyond the toes. This helps protect the knee joint. Also, strive to maintain control when stepping to the right and left. The more you focus when doing the lateral band walk, the easier it is to target the right gluteus muscle.

Selecting the Right Resistance Band 

As with any resistance band workout, it’s important to choose the right band strength. Typically, the amount of resistance the band provides is designated by color. This makes it easier to grab the correct one when performing your strength training exercises.

New exercisers should start with a band that provides the least amount of resistance. Try the lateral walk with it and see how it feels. Another option is to do this movement with no band at all. Then, add the band once this movement feels more comfortable and good form can be maintained.

People with some lower body strength may find that they can begin this exercise with a greater level of resistance. In this case, start with a band that feels challenging but doesn’t compromise form. As strength increases, increase the resistance of the band.

One nice thing about using a band is that this same piece of equipment can be used in other exercises that target the glutes. Add the band to a squat to increase gluteal activation, for instance. A band can also be used to boost upper body resistance. Use it to perform biceps curls or triceps extensions.

Resistance bands are also great options for people who don’t have a lot of space or can’t afford a lot of strength training equipment. They can be stored in a cupboard or under the couch. They also travel well, making it easier to stay in shape while out of town on business or for a vacation. 

Other Exercises for Maximum Glute Activation 

Of course, you don’t want to focus solely on the gluteus medius during the workout or this can result in a muscle imbalance. A complete glute strengthening program works all of the gluteal muscles. So, incorporate other exercises in your routine, some of which might include the:

  • Squat
  • Lateral lunge
  • Hip thrust
  • Step-up
  • Fire hydrant
  • Romanian deadlift

Be sure to give the glutes adequate time to recover, especially if your workout is intense. Don’t work these muscles two days in a row. Aim for a three-day break if you work with heavy resistance or do a lot of glute activation exercises.

Want to become the go-to trainer for clients interested in building strong glutes? ISSA offers Glute Specialist certification. In this course, you will learn which glute exercises can provide your clients the best results. It also teaches you how to market yourself as a certified glute trainer, increasing your demand.


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