If you are at a plateau in your fitness, hip abductor exercises could be what you need to take your workouts to the next level.
Your primary hip abductor muscle is your gluteus medius. It is responsible for moving your leg away from your midline. Working your hip abductors will improve strength, power, and stability and will reduce injury.
I will show you 5 great exercises for targeting your hip abductors. I will describe each exercise’s benefits, give you step-by-step instructions, and provide helpful tips on form.
1. Banded Lateral Steps
Skill level: Beginner
Banded lateral steps are great for beginners because it is easy to master the technique. Start with a light resistance band, and work your way up to a heavier resistance band as you get stronger.
Perform banded lateral walks as part of your warm-up to activate your hip abductors. This muscle is the primary hip abductor and is responsible for stabilizing the pelvis during movement.
Warming up these muscles before leg exercises like running and squatting will improve your strength and power.
Activating your glutes at the start of your workout will improve your form and reduce the risk of injury to your low back, hips, and knees.
- Place a resistance band loop around your legs just above your knees.
- Keeping your feet parallel, lower into a partial squat.
- Step your right foot out about 2 feet.
- Step your left foot in to meet the right.
- Repeat for several repetitions before reversing directions.
Choose a band with enough resistance that the exercise is challenging but not so heavy that you lose control of the movement.
Stay in a quarter-squat, and keep your feet parallel for the duration of the exercise.
Perform 10-12 repetitions in each direction for 3 sets to achieve maximum benefits from this exercise.
Skill level: Beginner
The clamshell is an isolation exercise for the gluteus medius. Clamshells are a great option because it doesn’t require any equipment.
Clamshells can be done by anyone, regardless of your level of strength. They are a great exercise to start building hip abductor strength.
During this exercise, the rest of your body is still, so it is easy to make sure you are using the correct form and targeting your hip abductors.
- Lie on your right side with your head resting on your arm, and your knees bent to a 90-degree angle.
- Place your left hand on your hip.
- Lift your left knee as far as you can without moving your left hip backward.
- Lower your left knee with control.
- Repeat for 10 repetitions before switching sides.
Keep your shoulders, hips, knees, and feet stacked on top of each other. Don’t let yourself roll forward or backward as you perform the exercise.
Use your free hand to monitor the position of your working hip. Your hip should be pointing to the wall in front of you as your knee lifts.
Add a resistance band loop around your legs above your knees to make this exercise more challenging.
3. Lateral Leg Raises
Skill level: Intermediate
Supine leg lifts are an excellent hip abductor exercise that targets your gluteus medius and maximus. You will also work your abs and quads to stabilize your body.
Doing this exercise with straight legs requires a lot of hip strength, so you can get a massive benefit without doing a ton of reps.
Your transverse abdominis is also engaged to stabilize your torso. A strong transverse abdominis helps stabilize the hips and prevents injury to the low back.
- Lie on your right side with your body in a straight line and your feet together.
- Support your head with your right hand, and bring your left hand to the floor in front of you.
- Lift your left leg toward the ceiling keeping the rest of your body still.
- Lower your leg with control.
- Repeat for 8-12 repetitions before switching sides.
Squeeze your quads to keep your legs straight.
Engage your abs and squeeze your glutes to keep your body still throughout the exercise. Your body should not be tilting back and forth as you lift and lower your leg.
Perform this exercise facing a mirror to monitor your form.
Add a light resistance band loop or an ankle weight to make the exercise harder.
4. Fire Hydrant
Skill level: Intermediate
The fire hydrant is a complex hip abduction exercise that targets the gluteus medius and the transverse abdominis.
These deep hip and core muscles are the primary muscles responsible for stabilizing your pelvis during movement.
Fire hydrants require you to stabilize your hips, abs, and shoulders simultaneously. This will improve your form and control during other athletic exercises.
- Start on your hands and knees with your shoulders over your wrists and your hips stacked over your knees.
- Press your hands into the floor to engage your shoulders and keep your gaze neutral at the floor.
- Lift your right knee toward the wall to your right without shifting your left hip.
- Lower your leg with control back to the start position.
- Complete several repetitions before switching sides.
Keep your supporting side lifted as you raise your opposite leg. Place a yoga block on top of your hips and perform the exercise without dropping the block.
Only lift your leg as far as you can without your hips tilting sideways. You will be able to lift your leg higher as your strength improves.
Keep your abs lifted away from the floor. Lifting your stomach engages your deep ab muscles and will help to stabilize your hips.
5. Side Lunge
Skill level: Advanced
The side lunge works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and the small muscles that stabilize your knees. This advanced exercise builds strength and stability in the hips and knees.
Side lunges will engage the back and core muscles more than other hip abductor exercises because you are standing.
Side lunges challenge the hip abductors more than traditional lunges while still working all of the large muscles of your lower body.
Add side lunges into your routine once you have mastered the beginner and intermediate level hip abductor exercises.
- Start by standing upright with your feet hip-width apart.
- Take a wide step to your right with your toe pointed slightly out.
- Squat onto your right leg keeping your left leg straight.
- Press into your right foot to press back up and return your right foot to meet the left.
- Repeat the movement with the left leg.
Keep your chest lifted and your gaze forward as you lower into the lunge.
Don’t let your knee go beyond your toes during the lunge. If your knee is coming forward too much, shift your weight back into your heel and sit your hips back more.
Make the exercise easier by starting in a wide stance and keeping your feet stationary as you lunge from side to side.
Make side lunges harder by holding a weight in front of your chest as you perform the exercise.
Focus on Your Hip Abductors to Improve Leg Days
It’s time to focus on your hip abductors if you have suffered lower-body injuries or can’t seem to improve your strength in your lower body.
Adding these simple exercises to your routine will improve your hips’ stability and help you generate more strength and power during your workouts.
Follow the instructions and tips to ensure that your form is correct.
Do these 5 hip abductor exercises as a warm-up or during your strength routine, and you will see huge results quickly.