Gluteus Maximus

Original Editor - Joanne Garvey

Top Contributors - George Prudden, Joanne Garvey, Rachael Lowe, Richard Benes and Wendy Walker  


Gluteus Maximus

The largest of all gluteal muscles that is located at the posterior aspect of hip joint. Its size allows it to generate a large amount of force. The muscle evolved from an adductor of the hip which is still seen in lower primates today. The development of the muscle's function is associated with the erect posture and changes to the pelvis. It now functions to maintain the erect posture as one of the muscles that extends the hip joint.

The fibres of Gluteal maximus are largely perpendicular to each other and line up in the direction of pull giving it it's quadrilateral shape and course appearance. There are two layers to the muscle which pass down to the insertional attachment.[1]


Gluteal surface of illium behind the posterior gluteal line, posterior border of the illium, and the adjacent part of the iliac crest

Additionally, the side of the coccyx and posterior aspect of the sacrum.

Fibres also attach to the upper sacrotuberous ligament and aponeurosis of the sacrospinalis.[1]


Three-quarters of the fibres form a separate superficial lamnina which narrows and attaches between the two layers of the tensor facscia lata, thereby helping to form the iliotibial tract.

The deeper fibres form an aponeurosis which attaches to the gluteal tuberosity of the femur.[1]

Nerve supply

The gluteus maximus is supplied by the inferior gluteal nerve (root L5, S1 and S2). Cutaneous supply is mainly provided by L2 and 3.[1]


Gluteus maximus acts to extend and laterally rotate the hip joint. Futhermore, upper fibres can abduct the hip whereas the lower fibres can adduct. 

As a powerful extensor of the hip joint, the gluteus maximus suited to powerful lower limb movements such as stepping onto a step, climbing or running but is not used greatly during normal walking. Gluteus maximus and the hamstrings work together to extend the trunk from a flexed position by pulling the pevis backwards, for example standing up from a bent forward position. Eccentric control is also provided when bending forward. Superior fibres of the gluteus maximus can extend the knee through its attachment to the iliotibial tract.

Gluteus maximus has several stability roles: balancing the pelvis on femoral heads thus maintaining upright posture, the attachment throught the iliotibial tract supports the lateral knee, and lateral rotation of femur when standing assists raising the medial longitudinal arch of the foot.

Gluteus maximus works to offload the ischial tuberosities when supporting body weight in sitting by a static of dynamic contraction.

If the gluteus maximus is paralysed climbing stairs and running will become very difficult however, other muscles can extend the hip. Gluteus maximus can be trained to produce functional knee extension when quadriceps femoris is weak or paralysed.[1]

Research has indicated that contraction of the deep abdominal muscles may assist with the contraction of gluteus maximus to assist with the control of anterior pelvic rotation.[2] Gluteal muscle weakness has been proposed to be associated with a number of lower limb injuries.[3]

Anatomy Overview



Locate the iliac crest then move posterior along the crest to a small bony process called the posterior superior illac spine (PSIS). Place the palm of your hand with fingers pointing down and towards the midline of the body. The upper hand now covers the origin attachments and under the palm is the bulk of gluteus maximus.

Contraction of the muscle can confirm this. Gluteus maximus can be palpated whilst it acts during standing hip extension, a step-up, or whilst standing raise the medial borders of the foot.[1]




Effective exercise to specifically target the gluteus maximus muscle includes the single leg squat and the singe leg prone dead lift. These exercises elicited the most significant activity in electromyography (EMG) when tested against other forms of exercise.[3]


See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Palastanga N, Soames R. Anatomy and Human Movement: Structure and Function. 6th ed. London, United Kingdom: Churchill Livingstone; 2012.
  2. Kim TW, Kim YW.Effects of abdominal drawing-in during prone hip extension on the muscle activities of the hamstring, gluteus maximus, and lumbar erector spinae in subjects with lumbar hyperlordosis; J Phys Ther Sci. 2015 Feb;27(2):383-6
  3. 3.0 3.1 Distefano LJ, Blackburn JT, Marshall SW, Padua DAGluteal muscle activation during common therapeutic exercises; J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2009 Jul;39(7):532-40