abductor exercises

Back pain, poor posture, and missing mind-muscle connection? Abductor exercises can save you from a lifetime of improper gait and stabbing back pain!

Abductor exercises strengthen your hip muscles and stabilize your pelvic floor.

Abductor exercises target your abductor muscles: 

  • Gluteus medias
  • Gluteus minimus

These muscles are located on the sides of the hips and are responsible for abduction – the movement of your leg away from the body’s midline. 

Abductor strength aligns the lower body during walking, running, and standing.

Weak abductors lead to knee valgus (inward collapse of the knees) and poor hip stability. 

Perform these top abductor exercises for hip strength training:

1. Side-Lying Leg Raises:

  • How to Do It:
    • Lie on your side with your bottom leg slightly bent for stability.
    • Keep your top leg straight and lift it toward the ceiling.
    • Lower the leg back down without letting it touch the ground.
    • Tip: Wear a resistance band to increase exercise intensity.
  • Target Muscles:
    • Mainly targets the gluteus medius and minimus.

2. Clamshells:

  • How to Do It:
    • Lie on your side with knees bent, stacking hips and shoulders.
    • Keeping your feet together, open your top knee, then close it.
    • Maintain tension on the side of your hips throughout the movement.
    • Tip: Wear a resistance band to increase exercise intensity.
  • Target Muscles:
    • Focuses on the gluteus medius.

3. Standing Hip Abduction:

  • How to Do it:
    • Stand tall with feet hip-width apart.
    • Lift one leg straight out to the side.
    • Control the movement and return to the starting position.
    • Tip: Wear a resistance band to increase exercise intensity. You can also wear a cable machine ankle strap to perform standing cable hip abductions.
  • Target Muscles:
    • Engages the gluteus medius and minimus.

4. Banded Lateral Walks:

  • Instructions:
    • Place a resistance band around your ankles.
    • Assume a quarter-squat position.
    • Take small steps sideways, maintaining tension on the band.
  • Target Muscles:
    • Works the entire hip abductor complex.

5. Hip Thrusts:

  • How to Do It:
    • Sit on the ground with your back against a bench.
    • Place a barbell or weight on your hips.
    • Drive through your heels, lifting your hips towards the ceiling.
  • Target Muscles:
    • Primarily targets the glutes, including the gluteus medius.

Tips for Effective Abductor Strength Training:

  • Perform 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions for each abductor exercise.
  • Gradually increase resistance or difficulty as you get stronger.
  • Focus on controlled movements to maximize muscle engagement.
  • Include these exercises in your routine 2-3 times per week for optimal results.

 Suggested Read: Strength Training 101 | The Ultimate Guide to Get Started

BONUS Abductor Exercises to Speed Up Results!

6. Fire Hydrants:

  • How to Do It:
    • Start on your hands and knees in a tabletop position.
    • Lift one knee out to the side, keeping the hip bent at 90 degrees.
    • Lower the knee back down without touching the ground and repeat.
  • Target Muscles:
    • Targets the gluteus medius and minimus, as well as the hip external rotators.

7. Seated Band Abductions:

  • How to Do It:
    • Sit on the floor with a resistance band looped around your thighs.
    • Open your legs outward against the resistance of the band.
    • Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
  • Target Muscles:
    • Isolates the hip abductors, especially the gluteus medius. 

Scientific Truth Behind Abductor Exercises

Neuromuscular Activation:

Abductor exercises enhance neuromuscular activation, which is the communication between the nervous system and the abductor muscles. Research suggests that targeted neuromuscular training leads to better muscle development [1].

Improve Hip Biomechanics:

Gluteus medius, a key abductor muscle, controls hip movement. Scientific studies show that it acts as a stabilizer for the pelvis during dynamic activities [2].

Abductor exercises improve hip biomechanics to increase your range of motion and improve hip stability. 

Injury Prevention:

Strong abductors reduce knee injury risks and lower back pain. Studies indicate that incorporating hip abductor exercises can be beneficial for preventing lower extremity injuries and osteoarthritis [3].

Suggested Read: 7 Common Sports Injuries You Need to Know About!

Some Less-Known Benefits of Strong Abductors

  • Abduct strength training improves lateral agility and Athletic Performance.
  • In women, strong hip muscles improve pelvic floor health [4]. 
  • Abductor strength training prevents iliotibial (IT) band syndrome.
  • Toned hip muscles shape your physique, making you more attractive.
  • Abductor Muscles Work in Synergy with Core Muscles to Promote Proprioception. 
  • Hip training improves your gait and mind-muscle coordination.

In a Nutshell:

Abductor exercises are an essential element of a well-rounded fitness routine. These exercises build hip strength, promote hip stability, improve posture, and prevent injuries and back pain. Gradually increase abductor exercise resistance to tone your glutes and build more strength. 

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[1] Akbar, S., Soh, K. G., Jazaily Mohd Nasiruddin, N., Bashir, M., Cao, S., & Soh, K. L. (2022). Effects of neuromuscular training on athletes physical fitness in sports: A systematic review. Frontiers in Physiology, 13. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2022.939042 

[2] Sadler, S., Cassidy, S., Peterson, B., Spink, M., & Chuter, V. (2019). Gluteus medius muscle function in people with and without low back pain: a systematic review. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-019-2833-4 

[3] Thomas, D. T., R, S., Prabhakar, A. J., Dineshbhai, P. V., & Eapen, C. (2022). Hip abductor strengthening in patients diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis – a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 23(1), 622. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12891-022-05557-6 

[4] Foster, S. N., Spitznagle, T. M., Tuttle, L. J., Sutcliffe, S., Steger-May, K., Lowder, J. L., Meister, M. R., Ghetti, C., Wang, J., Mueller, M. J., & Harris-Hayes, M. (2021). Hip and Pelvic Floor Muscle Strength in Women With and Without Urgency and Frequency-Predominant Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms. Journal of Women’s Health Physical Therapy, 45(3), 126–134. https://doi.org/10.1097/jwh.0000000000000209