Gluteus Maximus – Functional Anatomy

The gluteus maximus is a large flat muscle on the posterior hip. It is the largest muscle in the human body. It is seen as one of the distinctive human features as it is larger and more developed than other mammals and including apes.

It originates along the bony attachments of the posterior crest of the ilium, sacrum and coccyx. It has fascial origins along the sacrotuberous ligament, the aponeurosis of the erector spinae and the posterior portion of the gluteal aponeurosis.

The deep fibers of the gluteus maximus insert on the gluteal tuberosity and IT band. Studies vary on the superficial fibers. Some say that only the upper fibers insert into the IT band and all the lower insert into the gluteal tuberosity. Others say that all superficial fibers insert into the IT band.


Most references state that gluteus maximus extends the hip joint through the gluteal tuberosity and stabilizes the knee through the iliotibial band. They largely agree that it externally rotates the hip joint through the lower fibers. It is a considered a weak abductor through the upper fibers and a weak adductor through the lower fibers, depending on the position of the gluteal tuberosity.

Research conclusions on this muscle vary and, at times, seem contradictory.

Some studies state that it is large because it maintains erect posture. Other studies show it to be inactive while standing.

One electromyographical study shows that gluteus maximus is most active in side plank abduction, yet most anatomy sites consider it to be a weak abductor.

Other conclusions were: females exhibit greater GM excitation than males in all exercises, unilateral exercises exhibit greater excitation, and bracing abdominal muscles increase excitation.



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Tony Preston has a practice in Atlanta, Georgia where he sees clients. He has written and taught about anatomy, trigger points and cranial therapies since the mid-90s.

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