The hip adductor and abductor muscle groups are instrumental for maintaining good posture. Problems with these muscles can cause a range of issues, not just with your hips. Poor posture stemming from the hips can lead to lower back pain and also increase your risk of injury during sports exercise or even normal daily activity.
In this article, we will talk more about the importance of these muscle groups and give you a variety of hip abductor strengthening exercises you can do at home. If you are suffering from hip pain, poor posture, or chiropractic problems stemming from your hips, strengthening your abductor muscles could help.
You can use these hip abductor exercises at home, coupled with mild activity like going on walks. For beginners, or those suffering from hip and knee pain, you should talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Purpose of Hip Abductor Muscles
Most hip abductor muscles are located in the upper thigh and control the lateral range of motion, particularly of the hip joints. These muscles also play a part in keeping the knees in line during simple activities like walking, where posture is important.
The hip abductor group includes the following muscles:
- Gluteus medius
- Gluteus minimus
- Tensor fasciae latae
While side-stepping and turning focus more on these muscle groups, they also help maintain balance by correcting internal rotation during activities like running. Weak hip abductors from excessive sitting or lying down can cause these muscles to weaken, leading to improper alignment and increasing the chance of overstraining these muscles during a sudden sideways movement.
Why They Need Strengthening
Hip abductors are responsible for healthy posture when walking, running, and standing. Specifically, they keep the hips and knees properly aligned.
Weak hip abductors can cause poor posture during simple or strenuous activity, significantly increasing the chance of injury. Once an injury occurs, these muscles are further weakened, exacerbating the problem.
To recover from such an injury, or prevent it from ever happening, you want to maintain sufficient hip abductor strength. If you spend a lot of time sitting throughout the day, or have noticed a change in how you walk, you should spend a few minutes working on your hip abductor strength a few times per week.
Hip Abductor Strengthening Exercises
Strengthening hip abductors is vital for correcting walking posture and reducing the chance of future injuries. You can try these simple hip abductor exercises at home to engage and stretch your muscles in different ways.
Many can be done with a resistance band to increase the difficulty and results, though start without one for your first few sessions. As always, know your limits and don’t overdo it. You do not want to pull a hip abductor!
Side Lying Leg Lifts
For side-lying leg lifts, you obviously want to start in a comfortable position on your side. Your legs should be fully extended and stacked on top of each other. Most people prefer to support their head with their bottom arm while using their top arm for balance. Be sure to do repetitions on each side.
Once in position, simply lift your top leg up in the air while keeping both knee joints straight, and slowly lower it back down along the same plane of motion. Depending on your hip mobility and whether you are using a resistance band, your legs should make a roughly 35-degree angle each rep. Another term for this hip exercise is “gator bites” since your legs make a similar motion to an alligator chomping with his mouth.
The basic idea of the monster walk is a deliberate gait in a half-squat position. To get the full benefit of this hip abductor workout, a resistance band should be placed around the calves and thighs. Be careful moving with your lower body restrained.
Then, enter a half-squat position and keep your toes pointed forward, with feet at shoulder width. While pressing your knees out against the resistance of the bands, take deliberate steps forward while maintaining proper squat posture. You can also (carefully) walk backward, in the same manner, to thoroughly engage the muscle groups.
For the clamshell exercise, lay on your side again, similar to how you did for the side-lying leg lifts. Stack your legs again, but this time, bend them about halfway, keeping your feet in line with your spine.
Keeping your heels together, lift your top knee, opening your legs like a clamshell, then slowly bring them together again. You can use resistance bands for additional strengthening of the glute muscles.
The hip extension exercise is not unlike leg lifts. Start by lying on your back with your right leg extended (heel on the ground) and left leg bent (foot flat on the floor).
Slowly lift the extended leg as you would during a leg lift (30-45 degrees), then slowly lower it back down. Repeat several reps and switch legs.
A good stretch for the hip flexors and adduction muscles can be done with the arm of a couch or similar piece of furniture that stands about halfway up your thigh. As always, be careful with the flexion of the joint. Don’t move quickly or beyond the point of discomfort.
Stand sideways next to the object, then bend the closer knee and raise it outward, so it rests on top. Carefully bend your straight leg to stretch the inner thigh, similar to how you would stretch doing the splits.
The soccer pro exercise is a more advanced version of the hip extension leg lifts. Rather than laying flat on your back, assume a position like a crab walk where you lift your butt off the ground using your arms and legs.
From there, keep one foot on the ground while kicking the other in the air. You should be able to get it about head height or higher. This is also great for core muscles; just be careful about overextending your shoulders.
Squats can also help with overall leg and hip strengthening. More so, the quadriceps and gluteus maximus than the abductor muscles, but all of these groups work together. Let’s briefly discuss proper posture.
Stand with your legs straight and feet under your shoulders. Try to keep your knees and feet under your shoulders while lowering your butt behind you, extending your arms in front of you as a counterbalance if needed. Bend down until your thighs are nearly parallel to the ground, then stand back up straight.
Side lunges are better for hip abductors as they engage the interior and exterior muscles more than the normal walking and gluteal muscles on the front and back of the thighs. They also work the hamstrings in a less common way.
To do side lunges, once again stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Then take a long sideways step with one leg while keeping the other planted. This will force you into a half squat position, then push off and return to the original standing position. Repeat reps with both legs.
The kneeling roundhouse kick exercise is perfect for engaging hip abductors from different angles. To begin, get on your hands and knees with your back straight and horizontal.
Next, lift your left knee away from your body. Once it is up at about a 90-degree angle on your left side, kick your foot out by extending the knee. Hold it for a moment if you can, then reverse the steps to the starting position. Repeat on your right side.
Single-leg side circles
Similarly, get in the same position, and instead of kicking the leg directly outward, lift it off the ground and rotate it in a circular motion while maintaining the bent knee. Think of how baseball players loosen up their shoulders by rotating their arms.
You can do this at different angles and rotate in either direction. You can also try it with an outstretched leg; just be careful not to put too much strain on your hip.
Flutter kicks are an advanced kind of leg raise. Rather than just lifting your legs and holding them, you kick your feet up and down for extra engagement of the hip joints.
Simply lay on your back, keep your legs straight, and lift your heels about six to eight inches off the ground. Kick your feet up and down like you’re swimming while holding them aloft. You can use a resistance band for a greater challenge.
Try These Hip Abductor Exercises at Home
Fortunately, you don’t need any specialized equipment for many hip-strengthening exercises. Hip abduction exercises need less weight than a glute workout, making it a relatively easy area to focus on.
Hip abductor strengthening can help with both hip pain and knee symptoms, as well as correcting over posture. As always, seeking guidance from a professional before diving into new exercise regimens is advised. You should also be very careful when stretching and doing hip abduction exercises, as straining these muscles can be painful and limit your mobility.
Beginners should start without resistance bands and try a few reps at a time. From there, you can slowly work up to higher reps and eventually resistance bands for an added challenge.