Glute Imbalance: What It Is and How to Fix It

woman performing single leg squat

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The gluteal muscles, often referred to as glutes, are powerful muscles that make up your buttocks and consist of three muscles—the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus. Your glutes help to prevent injuries of your core along with your back and abdominal muscles and other supporting muscles and tissues.

Strong glutes promote lumbopelvic stability, meaning they keep your lower back and pelvis in proper alignment, preventing strains and injuries. They also help power athletic performance and daily movements like walking, running, and sitting.

Sometimes people can develop an imbalance in their glutes, though, where one side is larger than the other. If this is the case for you, you may need to address it to prevent injuries and issues with your posture. An imbalance that is not addressed can lead to further muscle imbalance and pain. Here is what you need to know about a glute imbalance and how to address it.

What Is Glute Imbalance?  

Glute imbalance occurs when one side of your glutes (right or left) is larger, stronger, or more dominant. Glute imbalances are common and part of normal human anatomy. No one has a perfectly symmetrical body in any area, including the glutes.

In fact, it is normal to shift slightly to the more dominant side when squatting, or have one side of your glutes that activates more or sits higher than the other side. Just as you prefer one hand, arm, and leg over another, so too will you likely have one glute that works harder and is stronger than the other.

If you are right-handed, you likely jump off your left leg, so your left hip extensor will be stronger than the right, and your right hip flexor will be stronger than the left.

What Causes Glute Imbalance?

There are several causes of glute imbalance beyond normal anatomy, including pre-existing injuries, pain, or inadequate rehabilitation from a previous injury. Other causes can include nerve injuries or anatomical variations. Some of these causes can be addressed more readily than others, depending on the individual and the extent of the issue.

"Glute imbalances can be caused by a multitude of reasons including prior surgery or injury, improper training, leg length discrepancies, asymmetric anatomy, atrophy, spine pain, nerve issues, and life and sport-specific factors that may prioritize one side of the body over the other side of your body," says Toufic Jildeh, MD, MSU Athletics team physician and provider at MSU Health Care, assistant professor of Orthopedics Colleges of Human & Osteopathic Medicine at Michigan State University, and team physician for US Olympic Ski and Snowboard.

Injuries such as ankle sprains can lead to reduced glute activation. When you have pain in one area of your body, signals are sent to inhibit other muscles responsible for motion, including the glutes. This is a protective mechanism the body has to prevent further injury.

These changes alter your movement patterns and can lead to muscular imbalances in your glutes and other areas. If you do not rehabilitate from an injury like this properly, then you can be left with a glute imbalance.

Another factor is differences in anatomy. Each person has uniquely shaped muscles, attachment points, nerve supplies, and more. These anatomical variations can lead to one side of your glutes being more dominant or strong than the other.

How Do I Fix Glute Imbalance?

While you cannot completely prevent glute imbalances, and sometimes the causes are beyond what you can fix on your own, there are ways to prevent and improve some forms of glute imbalance. Just ensure you seek the care of a healthcare provider if you experience pain or dysfunction.

"Effective exercise and supervised therapy are important interventions to break the positive-feedback cycle in which glute imbalance can cause pain. It is important to focus on core strengthening, as well as reconciling the differences between both sides of your body," says Dr. Jildeh.

To do this, you can try unilateral training, which is training one side of your body at a time. If you have a dominant side, as most people do, focusing on strength training the other side by working it first during your unilateral training sets and watching for shifts to one side in your form and correcting them is a good starting point. make sure to film yourself to catch shifts during lifts like squats and deadlifts, and sumo deadlifts.

For some people, it may make sense to get assistance from a personal trainer or physical therapist—especially if you cannot seem to make the corrections on your own or you are unsure how to begin.

Fixing Muscular Compensation is Important

Glute imbalance can cause pain up and down the kinetic chain and can cause pain in both the affected limb, as well as the opposite side, according to Dr. Jildeh. "As the pain worsens, and compensatory patterns increase, a positive feedback cycle can form which worsens the gluteal imbalance and worsen the pain," he says.

An exercise like single-leg reverse hyperextensions using ankle weights or bands is a good choice for fixing glute imbalances. This exercise focuses on hip extension and targets the glute. Another option would be a bent-over single-leg kickback which is similar but does not require you to lean your torso over a reverse hyper machine, stability ball, or bench.

Additionally, you can perform an extra set of any unilateral exercises you have in your workout. Just add one more set to your weaker side for any movements like lunges, single-leg hip thrusts, single-leg squats, or split squats. Isometrically contracting your weaker glute throughout the day may also help build more balance in your glutes.

"If the glute imbalance manifests as pain in your groin, pain that radiates down either leg or extreme debilitating pain that interferes with your ability to function in day-to-day life, this may signify a more serious issue that would merit visiting a healthcare professional," advises Dr. Jildeh.

A Word From Verywell

While glute imbalances are common and largely unavoidable, there are cases where injuries and poor movement patterns lead to imbalances that can and should be fixed to prevent further issues and pain. Talk to a healthcare provider to determine which approach would work best for you. With a little help and consistency, you should be able to address the issue without too much effort.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Is it normal for glutes to be uneven?

    It is normal for glutes to be uneven. Most everyone has a dominant side of their body, including the glutes. Some causes of uneven glutes can be due to past or current injury as well as other causes that should be addressed by a healthcare provider.

  • How long does it take to reshape glutes?

    How long it takes to reshape the glutes depends on what is meant by "reshaping," your current anatomy. But in general, your current training program and meal plan as well as whether you have past or current injuries will have an impact. Seek the guidance of a healthcare professional for personalized advice including how long it will take to address the issue.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  4. Lin CI, Khajooei M, Engel T, et al. The effect of chronic ankle instability on muscle activations in lower extremities. Li Y, ed. PLoS ONE. 2021;16(2):e0247581. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0247581

By Rachel MacPherson, BA, CPT
Rachel MacPherson is a health writer, certified personal trainer, and exercise nutrition coach based in Montreal.