A Simple Tweak to Enhance Glute and Reduce TFL Activity

Hip weakness is a common area of focus in both the rehabilitation and fitness fields.  Combine our excessive sitting postures and the majority of activities during the day that occur in the sagittal plane of motion, and hip weakness in the frontal and transverse planes is common.

There are many exercises designed to address glute medius and glute maximus strength in the transverse plane.  But a simple tweak to your posture during one of the most common exercises can have a big impact on glute activity and the balance between your glutes and TFL.


The Effect of Body Position on Lateral Band Walking

A recent study in JOSPT analyzed EMG activity of the glute max, glute medius, and TFL muscles during two variations of the lateral band walking exercises.

The subjects performed the lateral band walk in a standing straight up posture and a more flexed squat position.

A Simple Tweak to Enhance Glute and Reduce TFL Activity

I’ve personally used both variations in the past but tend to perform the exercise more often in the slightly flexed position, which we consider a more “athletic posture,” as we don’t really walk laterally with our hips and knees straight very often.

Results showed that EMG of both the glute max and glute medius was enhanced by performing lateral band walks in the partial squat position, and that TFL activity was actually reduced.  Glute activity almost doubled.


A Simple Tweak to Enhance Glute and Reduce TFL Activity

The finding of reduced TFL activity is just as important as enhanced glute EMG activity, as the ratio of glute medius to TFL is greatly enhanced by performing the lateral band walk in this athletic position.

Sometimes it’s the simplest studies that make the most impact.

The TFL also acts as a secondary hip flexor and internal rotator of the hip.  In those with glute medius weakness, which is fairly common, the TFL tends to be overactive to produce abduction of the hip.

Considering how our chronic seated posture can cause shortening of the hip flexors and we know many knee issues can arise from too much dynamic hip internal rotation and glute medius weakness, we often try to focus on developing the glute medius ability to become more of the primary muscle involved with abduction, instead of the TFL.

Another interesting finding of the study was that the stance limb, not the moving limb, had higher EMG activity for every muscle in both positions.  This shows the importance of the stance abductors in providing both a closed kinetic chain driving force as well as a lumbopelvic stabilizing force when the moving limb transitions to nonweightbearing.

We focus a lot on abduction based exercises to strengthen the glute medius, but closed kinetic chain exercises in single leg stance may be just as important to train the hip to stabilize the lower extremity.

One thing I would add is that I rarely perform this exercise with the band at the ankles as the authors did.  I much prefer to put the band around the knee and feel it helps develop better hip control.

Based on this study, I’m not sure I see why I would perform a lateral band walk in a tall upright posture.  I’m going to maximize glute activity and reduce TFL activity by doing the exercise in a more flexed athletic position.


13 replies
  1. Shawn Engell
    Shawn Engell says:

    Hello Again Mike,

    You mentioned in your blog post about preferring to position the band around the knees. Ed Cambridge in Stu McGills lab also investigated if band position makes a difference, and I enclosed that journal title below. Enjoy the read, Great articles from the the folks at the University of Waterloo

    Clin Biomech (Bristol, Avon). 2012 Aug;27(7):719-24. doi: 10.1016/j.clinbiomech.2012.03.002. Epub 2012 Mar 30.

    Progressive hip rehabilitation: the effects of resistance band placement on gluteal activation during two common exercises.

    Cambridge ED1, Sidorkewicz N, Ikeda DM, McGill SM.

  2. Shawn Engell
    Shawn Engell says:

    Hello Mike, thanks for the update on. The Question for Trine has been investigate by Stu McGills lab. The article title is enclosed below. It was published in Clinical Biomechanics. They looked at the inter-play between the gluts and TFL for the common “clamshell” Enjoy the read.
    Examining the effects of altering hip orientation on gluteus medius and tensor fascae latae interplay during common non-weight-bearing hip rehabilitation exercises
    Natalie Sidorkewicz,
    Edward D.J. Cambridge,
    Stuart M. McGill
    Spine Biomechanics Laboratory, Faculty of Applied Health Sciences, Department of Kinesiology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

  3. Trine Vinther Talset
    Trine Vinther Talset says:

    I started thinking about the classic side lying abduction, where we often tell people to abduct with internal rotation (e.g. heels upward) and hips extended. If i understand this correctly, that will enhance TFL contribution?

  4. Tiffany
    Tiffany says:

    Mike! Great Article! I have been trying to implement this more flexed posture when prescribing lateral band walks, but one issue I run into is the patients inability to get into this posture. Many of the patients end up bending more at the knees and thus feel it mainly in the quads. When instructed to stick their bottom out and keeping the trunk a little flexed, patients feel pain in the low back. Any tips on how to improve the form for this exercise?

    • mikereinold
      mikereinold says:

      Hmm, not sure your population but that seems unusual. I call it an “athletic position” with just about 30 deg bend in knees. Should be a very comfortable position for the body. Stay in that posture and don’t go up and down as you walk, stay low.

  5. Nick Ortego
    Nick Ortego says:

    Thanks. Great article! This makes me revamp my approach with this exercise. I have taught it standing tall with the glutes pre activated, but now I have new info.

  6. christian
    christian says:

    This is fantastic. Always thought placing the hip in an extended position increased post fibers glute med and was preferable in that it took out the flex hip alignment the TFL seems so overactive in posturally.

    Perhaps lombards law applies here as knee flexion relative to hip equals things out? Also whilst we may aim for complete hip extension, a patient stuck chronically in extension may not be truely getting there during the exercise.

    What about the New Zealand based article that suggests in a.comparison of open chain exercises glute med fires better in side lying straight leg hip abduction (when compared to clam shell)????

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