In hip abduction, your thigh opens to the side, away from the other thigh. You use this movement every time you step sideways. This movement is involved when you play sports, dance, get into and out of a car and get onto and off of a bicycle. The muscles that abduct your hip are also the muscles that stabilize your pelvis when you walk or stand on one foot. By strengthening them, you will improve your whole body's range of motion. Always remember to warm up before you exercise.
Anatomy of Hip Abduction
Every movement requires a team effort from multiple muscles. Some muscles create movement while others stabilize. The primary hip abductors are the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. These muscles form the curves of your outer thighs along the sides of your buttocks. When they contract, your leg moves out to the side. Different muscles will also contract during hip abduction depending upon the angle you move your leg, the position of your knee and the rotation of your thigh.
Laundry-Basket Hip -- The Great Stabilizer
Stand with your feet parallel and hip-width apart. Your knees should face forward so the center of your thighs are in line with the centers of your kneecaps, the bones in your shins and your second toes. This is neutral hip rotation. With both feet on the floor, shift your center of gravity over to one side as if you were bracing a laundry basket on your hip. Keep your knees soft and your pelvis and ribcage level. At this point, your center of gravity will be aligned over one foot and you can easily lift your other foot. Practice shifting your center of gravity from one side to the other, finding your balance over each foot.
Standing Hip Abduction
Keep your hips in neutral rotation and shift your center of gravity into a "laundry-basket hip" over one leg. Lift the free leg directly out to the side until it reaches about a 40-degree angle. With your hip in neutral rotation and your knee straight, your thigh bone will bump into the pelvic socket and limit further abduction. Don't force the abduction beyond this range or tip your pelvis to accommodate it. Bring the leg back towards the standing leg. Repeat until you feel a slight burn in the muscles of the outer thigh and then switch legs. To safely increase the resistance of this exercise, place a resistance band around your legs, just above your knees.
Stand with your feet parallel and hips in neutral rotation. With your knees softly bent, shift into a laundry-basket hip. Bring the other knee up in front of your body. Keep your toes and knees facing forward and move the outside of your lifted ankle to the side. Step down, push your hips back into a mini-squat and shift your center of gravity over your foot. Pull your hips forward to stand upright and bring the other knee up in front of your body. Find your balance over the opposite leg before you side lunge onto the other leg. Repeat 15 to 20 times on each side. As your strength and balance improve, lunge farther and spring up out of the squat.
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