BEST Exercises for Abdominals, Glutes, and Adductors. Mind-Blowing Charts!

Best Exercises for Abdominals, Glutes, and Adductors. Mind-Blowing Charts! 

A big thank you to Adam Meakins, featured now in Pelvic Guru’s Professional Spotlight! He has generously allowed me to compile his charts and information into this blog article. Out of  all of the posts we share on the Pelvic Guru Facebook page, this type of information ranks high for likes, shares, and comments – very high! So, why not make an “epic” collection of this information all in one easy resource, right? The best part is that Adam’s charts are based on research! ~ Tracy
abs glutes


 Is it That Simple?

Before all of you start running out and doing clapping push ups and using the hip adductor machine (yikes), please note some important “cautions.” I feel that if we just show these beautiful charts without the caveats, many of the same strength training and stability myths will perpetuate. (Resources The Myth of Core Stability Eyal Lederman, 2009 and Pitfalls of Core Stability Industry)

1. When we do any exercise, we simply cannot isolate just one muscle or group of muscles. Our bodies are part of a larger system – not just musculoskeletal. Lederman (2009) states:

The division of the trunk into core and global muscle system is a reductionist fantasy, which serves only to promote the core stability (industry) – Lederman

Check out Adam’s post on 10 Commandments for Physiotherapists in which he states:

Commandment No 2: Exercise isn’t just strengthening!

Despite my background as a previous S&C coach and my clear bias towards strengthening exercises, there are many other factors to consider when using exercises. Strength, power, endurance, motor control, all have their uses and different methods to achieve their goals. A thorough understanding of how human physiology responds and adapts to different modes and methods of exercise is essential and recognising when a patient needs one or the other is vital. The role of exercise also is not just about strength of the muscle and tendons. The effects that mechanical stress, shear and strain has on all tissues to promote healing and encourage adaptation mustn’t be overlooked.Finally exercise is not just about physical structure. Lets not forget the role exercise has in reducing pain, fear, anxiety, depression and a host of other psychosocial issues. Another major reason and consideration for all therapists to use it.

Is the goal really strengthening and just activating the muscles? No. Furthermore, some exercises are not comparing apples to apples. It can be a case of apples to oranges.  This topic is quite broad and there are numerous articles on related topics.Tony Ingram, PT, MSc provides some insight, based on research, in his article, Improve Movement by Training Movement – Not Specific Muscles:

Muscle strengthening still has tremendous value. In some cases a person may not be strong enough to move a certain way. This is probably not the case with most activities, although strengthening may make common movements easier. Plus, research does show that hip strengthening leads to improvements in joint loading – which may reduce some cases of acute pain during exercise. 7

However, when it comes to improving movement, nothing is better than actually training movement. Deliberately practice the movement with the goal of making the desired improvements. Don’t just go through the motions.

2. These charts are meant to summarize research utilizing EMG activity for testing (studies not included at this time, but referenced in the charts). This is NOT a clinical guide for strengthening  if you have any sort of injury or medical condition.

You should still consult with your doctor and physical therapist (physiotherapist) for an individualized exercise plan based on your condition. We highly encourage movement. However, if you have a specific type of injury or medical condition, you may need further guidance. Typically, any movement or strength training that does not increase pain or worsening of other symptoms significantly during or after exercise, is safe. However, for some diagnoses such as pelvic floor dysfunction or other pelvic pain conditions such as pudendal neuralgia, there may be exercises that should be avoided (such as hip adductor machine, deep squats and band walks). Furthermore, this does not go into specific research regarding  diastasis recti (splitting of the connective tissue of the rectus abdominus) and exercises. There’s also a lot more to discuss about transversus abdominus for another post. 

 Caution over. Enjoy the charts! Aren’t they cool?

* Note: The charts only show exercises that were tested for research. Better exercises than these “best” may, in fact, exist.

* Transversus Abdominus not specifically shown, but often paired with internal obliques with testing.


Screenshot 2015-01-31 11.24.27


** Here’s an example where clinical knowledge and judgement can be so important. Below you will see excellent information and videos by Adam demonstrating exercises to activate the glutes while walking (they look a little funny, huh?). Do NOT do these exercises if 1. You (or your patients) have an increase in their symptoms while doing the exercise or after doing them 2. You suspect you may have pudendal neuralgia or have been diagnosed with this (until you are working with a specialized pelvic or ortho PT who is familiar with this). Over the 15 years that I’ve treated pelvic pain issues, the trend is that these types of exercises are fantastic for general muscle recruitment, but seem to flare up symptoms for patients with pudendal neuralgia types of symptoms. In fact, often times the reason I get a referral from an orthopedic therapist for specialized pelvic PT is when pudendal symptoms and pelvic floor dysfunction flare after deep squats and/or these band walking exercises. Remember , this is totally individual and some patients dealing with pudendal neuralgia may do very well with these exercises.

Magic Glutes, Part 1

Magic Glutes Part 2

Glute Band 1-  Walk – The Crab

Glute Band 2 Walk – The Waltz

Glute Band 3-  Pee’d Pants


Screenshot 2015-01-31 11.31.21Bonus Picture -Muscles activated during phases of cycling

(I have not been able to track down a source for this).


Professional Spotlight: Adam Meakins

Google image

Google image

adam meakinsAdam is a specialized physiotherapist (PT) in the field of sports injuries at the Spire Bushey Hospital (North London). His specialization is actually the shoulder joint, but he is more knowledgeable than almost anyone else I’ve seen in ALL areas of musculoskeletal anatomy, fitness and sports rehabilitation, brain and pain connection and so on. He’s essentially a bit of a professional mentor via social media.

I highly recommend you check out all of his thoughts and information in his blog: The Sports Physio. You can also follow him on Twitter @AdamMeakins The Sports Physio (and you will NOT be disappointed).

You can connect with Tracy Sher, founder of Pelvic Guru at  @pelvicguru1 on Twitter or visit . As always, if something was missed or inaccurate, please let us know!

16 thoughts on “BEST Exercises for Abdominals, Glutes, and Adductors. Mind-Blowing Charts!

  1. WOW, that is all I can say, what a lot of thought, work you have done in this article. I have posted, and sent it to some PT’s and people I know that work out. From a pelvic pain position, I agree that some of those exercises will exasperate a hypertonic pelvic floor, for sure. I love how I can now look at your chart and go, ok avoid that. I was using the band and doing some major abducting and sent myself into a horrible PF problem. Had I had this information I could have avoided a MAJOR flare. So thank you so much. I will link this information to my pelvic floor pain website, so that others can benefit from this valuable resource!

  2. This is a great article! Thank you for the information. I noticed the title had a small typo: Did you mean to say ABductors instead of ADDuctors?

    • There’s actually a full slide on ADDuctors. I used Glutes to cover max and medius :). I hope that makes sense. Thanks for commenting. I appreciate any comments to make articles better.

  3. Pingback: BEST Exercises for Abdominals, Glutes, and Adductors. Mind-Blowing Charts! | Pelvic Guru

  4. Pingback: Monday Move: Side Plank (+ 3 Variations) – Get Mom Strong

  5. Pingback: Monday Move: Pee Your Pants (or Don’t) – Get Mom Strong

Leave a Reply - We want to see your comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s