Gluteus Maximus Activation during Common Strength and Hypertrophy Exercises: A Systematic Review

J Sports Sci Med. 2020 Feb 24;19(1):195-203. eCollection 2020 Mar.


The gluteus maximus (GMax) is one of the primary hip extensors. Several exercises have been performed by strength and conditioning practitioners aiming to increase GMax strength and size. This systematic review aimed to describe the GMax activation levels during strength exercises that incorporate hip extension and use of external load. A search of the current literature was performed using PubMed/Medline, SportDiscuss, Scopus, Google Scholar, and Science Direct electronic databases. Sixteen articles met the inclusion criteria and reported muscle activation levels as a percentage of a maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC). The exercises classified as very high level of GMax activation (>60% MVIC) were step-up, lateral step-up, diagonal step-up, cross over step-up, hex bar deadlift, rotational barbell hip thrust, traditional barbell hip thrust, American barbell hip thrust, belt squat, split squat, in-line lunge, traditional lunge, pull barbell hip thrust, modified single-leg squat, conventional deadlift, and band hip thrust. We concluded that several exercises could induce very high levels of GMax activation. The step-up exercise and its variations present the highest levels of GMax activation followed by several loaded exercises and its variations, such as deadlifts, hip thrusts, lunges, and squats. The results of this systematic review may assist practitioners in selecting exercised for strengthening GMax.

Keywords: Skeletal muscle; electromyography; gluteus maximus; strength training.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Electromyography
  • Humans
  • Isometric Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle Strength / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / anatomy & histology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Resistance Training / methods*
  • Weight Lifting / physiology*