In 2011, Boren et al. published a study comparing the gluteus medius and maximus activation levels using EMG of several different common rehab exercises (you can find the article HERE). It is an excellent article in my opinion and definitely worth reading. One trick I picked up from the article that I have had a lot of success with lately is a hip clamshell exercise progression.
The progression has four stages, with each stage activating the gluteus medius more than the previous. The number at the end of each stage’s description is the percentage of gluteus medius maximum isometric contraction (MVIC). The higher the percentage, the more electrically activity happening in the muscle. This means more muscle fibers being recruited. Controlled tempo with a slight pause at the top with each movement.
- Pictured top left: This is a standard hip external rotation clamshell exercise. Position yourself in side-lying with your hips flexed to 45 degrees. The exercise is performed by externally rotating the top leg while keeping the feet together. 47% MVIC
- Pictured top right: Same initial position of hip clam 1 but the top leg is internally rotated by lifting the foot up. The knees remain in contact during the entire execution of the exercise. 62% MVIC
- Pictured bottom left: While sidelying with the hips flexed to 45 degrees, the top leg is raised and held parallel to the floor/bench. While maintaining this knee position, the top left is internally rotated. 67% MVIC
- Pictured bottom right: While sidelying with the hips in neutral (0 degrees of flexion), the top leg is raised and held parallel to the table. While maintaining this knee position, the knee is internally rotated. 76% MVIC
Boren, K., Conrey, C., LeCoguic, J., Paprocki, L., Voight, M., & Robinson, K. (2011). Electromyographic Analysis of Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Maximus During Rehabilitation Exercises. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy, 6(3).