Gluteal Muscle Activation During Common Yoga Poses

Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2021 Jun 1;16(3):662-670. doi: 10.26603/001c.22499.


Background: Approximately 24% of physical therapists report regularly using yoga to strengthen major muscle groups. Although clinicians and athletes often use yoga as a form of strength training, little is known about the activation of specific muscle groups during yoga poses, including the gluteus maximus and medius.

Hypothesis/purpose: The purpose of this study was to measure gluteus maximimus and gluteus medius activation via electromyography (EMG) during five common yoga poses. A secondary purpose of the current study was to examine differences in muscle activation between sexes and experience levels.

Study design: Cross-Sectional.

Methods: Thirty-one healthy males and females aged 18-35 years were tested during five yoga poses performed in a randomized order. Surface EMG electrodes were placed on subjects' right gluteus maximus and gluteus medius. Subjects performed the poses on both sides following a maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) test for each muscle. All yoga pose EMG data were normalized to the corresponding muscle MVIC data.

Results: Highest gluteus maximus activation occurred during Half Moon Pose on the lifted/back leg (63.3% MVIC), followed by the stance/front leg during Half Moon Pose (61.7%), then the lifted/back leg during Warrior Three Pose (46.1%). Highest gluteus medius activation occurred during Half Moon Pose on the lifted/back leg (41.9%), followed by the lifted/back leg during the Warrior Three Pose (41.6%). A significant difference was found in %MVIC of gluteus medius activity between male and female subjects (p = 0.026), and between experienced and inexperienced subjects (p = 0.050), indicating higher activation among males and inexperienced subjects, respectively.

Conclusion: Half Moon Pose and Warrior Three Pose elicited the highest activation for both the gluteus maximus and the gluteus medius. Higher gluteus medius activation was seen in males and inexperienced subjects compared to their female and experienced counterparts.

Level of evidence: 3.

Keywords: electromyography; gluteals; yoga.