Context: Gluteus medius rehabilitation is of critical importance given its role in pelvic and lower limb stability, and the known link between gluteus medius weakness and many lower limb conditions.
Objective: To systematically review the literature and present an evidence-based graduated series of exercises to progressively load gluteus medius.
Evidence acquisition: A systematic literature search was conducted in January 2016 to identify studies reporting gluteus medius muscle activity as a percentage of maximal volitional isometric contraction (MVIC), during rehabilitation exercises. Studies that investigated injury free participants were included. No restrictions were placed on the type or mode of exercise, though exercises that could not be accurately replicated or performed within an independent setting were excluded. Studies that did not normalize electromyographic activity to a side lying MVIC were excluded. Exercises were stratified based on exercise type and %MVIC: low (0% to 20%), moderate (21% to 40%), high (41% to 60%), and very high (> 61%).
Evidence synthesis: 20 studies were included in this review, reporting outcomes in 33 exercises (and a range of variations of the same exercise). Prone, quadruped, and bilateral bridge exercises generally produced low or moderate load. Specific hip abduction/rotation exercises were reported as moderate, high, or very high load. Unilateral stance exercises in the presence of contralateral limb movement were often high or very high load activities, while high variability existed across a range of functional weight-bearing exercises.
Conclusions: This review outlined a series of exercises commonly employed in a rehabilitation setting, stratified based on exercise type and the magnitude of gluteus medius muscular activation. This will assist clinicians in tailoring gluteus medius loading regimens to patients, from the early postoperative through to later stages of rehabilitation.
Keywords: electromyography; hip abductors.