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Gluteus Medius: The Hidden Hero of Barre

If you’ve ever done a Barre class, you’re probably familiar with the infamous “shake”. It’s a little (or big) shiver in a muscle or a group of muscles. I used to shake violently while doing ball squats pre-hip replacement.

Why? The muscles we use for most of our generalized exercise (think weight lifting) are the bigger, more prominent ones: think quads, hamstrings, glute max. The muscles we use at the Barre for stabilization are much, much smaller. We fatigue these muscles very quickly, resulting in the glorious quivering that we love/hate. It doesn’t mean that you are weak, but the stronger the muscles are surrounding the hip, the longer it will take before the quaking comes to find you. Prior to hip replacement surgery, I couldn't connect to those muscles and therefore couldn't strengthen them, but now I have bionic hips, I have the joy of getting so much stronger. But remember, no matter how swole you are, the glute med will tire quickly.

What good is this pain in the butt (literally) little muscle? The two main jobs of the gluteus medius is to rotate the thigh bone (external rotation or turn out) and to abduct (move it away from the centerline) the thigh bone . It also keeps the pelvis stable. These are the movement patterns we use in almost every Barre exercise. Most other traditional forms of exercise movement have us work in the sagittal, or to the front and back, plane–cycling or running are two examples. Adding a Barre class or two may be a great choice in balancing out your body and actually improving on your hobbies or sport.  

Yeah, OK, but… No ifs, ands, or buts about it–keeping our hips strong is one of the keys to aging well and staying mobile so we can continue to hike, climb, ski, snowboard, play pickleball, etc. You don’t participate in any of those hobbies? How about daily functions like rising from the sofa, chair, bed, or the commode? 

Not just hips… One of the best things about strengthening the glute med and your hips, is the added benefit of stabilizing your knee joint. As a former Physical Therapist of mine once said to me “Sasha, the knee is a very stupid joint. It is directly affected by what happens above it and what happens below it…”. So if you’re feeling twinge-y in the knee, try taking Barre and see how you feel afterwards.

I have had more than a few (wink, wink) Barre Stars relieve hip and knee pain, increase mobility and improve posture all while pulsing to the beat.

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