Your hip and thigh abductor muscles run from the top of your side waistband to the outside of your knee. Their function is to pull the leg away from the torso. You can lift and shape flabby abductors, also known as “saddlebags,” using several workout methods and positions. Side-lying Pilates mat exercises put the least strain on your muscles, while standing ballet-barre exercises require more strength. Progress to a more advanced workout by moving to the weight room to use the low-cable machine.
Pilates Leg Lifts
By increasing your range of motion beyond what you perform in daily life, you can recruit more muscle fibers and change your shape quickly, according to Physique 57 founder Tanya Becker in her book "The Physique 57 Solution.'' Lie on your side on a mat with your hips stacked and your toes pointed forward. Lengthen your torso and place your top hand on the floor to help you stabilize your body. Lift the top leg as high as possible, keeping your leg fully extended. Pretend that someone is grabbing your foot and pulling your leg long and up. Squeeze your top leg down to the start position. Perform 10 leg lifts on one side and then flip over to perform a second set on your other leg. As you become stronger, work your way up to three sets on each leg.
Ballet Barre Side-Steps
Stand facing a ballet barre or counter with your hands lightly resting on it. Hinge at your hip to create a 45-degree angle with your spine. Bend your knees and lengthen your torso on an angle. Straighten both legs as you step your right foot out and tap your toes about 18-inches to the right. Bend both legs as you return to your start position. If this movement causes strain in your low-back, work with your torso at a higher angle, advises Richard Giorla, author of “Raise the Barre.” Perform 10 tap repetitions on your right leg, and then switch to your left leg. Perform up to 10 sets of 10 repetitions on each leg.
Weight-room Cable Machine
Perform this exercise with a 5-pound weight setting on the cable machine. Stand with your right hip close to the weight stack and strap an ankle cuff onto your left ankle. Cross your left foot slightly in front of the right foot. Exhale as you sweep the weighted foot out to the left. Move as far as possible without losing balance on your standing leg. Inhale as you return to your start position. Perform up to 12 repetitions on each leg. You can add weight in 2.5-pound increments as long as you can maintain balance and perform a minimum of eight repetitions.
You can prevent muscle soreness and possible injuries by warming up with 15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise before performing any of these hip abductor workouts. Add hip stretches after your workout to keep your muscles from shortening, advises Becker. Your Pilates and ballet barre exercises can be performed daily, while weight-room exercises require a day off after working this muscle group.
- The Physique 57 Solution; Tanya Becker and Jennifer Maanavi
- Raise the Barre; Richard Giorla
Based in Portland, Ore., Christine Binnendyk has written about health topics since 2001. She is the author of the book "Ageless Pilates" and her work has appeared in "SELF" magazine and "Pilates Pro." Binnendyk holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Connecticut and certifications from YogaFit, ACE, IDEA, Oregon School of Massage and the Pilates Studio of New York.