Abduction exercises move your limb away from your body's center. The most common include hip abduction for chiseling your outer thighs, and lateral raises for sculpting sexy shoulders. The many variations of these exercises attest to their popularity. Choose a few favorites, and do three weekly workouts, with a rest day between. Do two to three sets of 10 to 15 reps, and avoid burnout by varying the exercises in each session.
Hip abduction workouts often appear in fitness magazines as "spot reduction exercises," but don't drink the Kool-Aid. Spot reduction is a myth. Abducting yourself from the snack table and performing aerobic exercise is the only way to reduce all-over body fat, but hip abduction exercises still have their merits. They strengthen your gluteus medius, located on the upper, outer section of your butt, and the tensor fascia lata, a muscle running down your outer thigh.
Side-Lying Hip Abduction
Although they won't shrink your outer thighs, hip abduction workouts stabilize your hips and knees. Lie on one side with your hips and legs stacked. Bend your supporting elbow and rest your head with the palm of your hand. Contract your abs to stabilize your pelvis, and lift your leg to hip height. Variations include include internally rotating the leg so that your toes face downward, and performing leg circles. Add challenge with resistance bands or ankle weights. The side plank variation invites your obliques to the party. Prop yourself up on your elbow, lift your hips, then lift your top leg.
Hip Abduction Variations
"Have resistance band, will travel" is the motto of active women on the run. For a sport-specific abduction workout, wrap the band around your ankles, and take eight side steps to the right and left. At the the gym, there's the old standby, the seated hip abduction. Sit upright, place your legs inside the pads, and press outward. If your gym has a standing hip abduction machine, adjust the roller so that it aligns with your outer thigh, hold the bars for balance, and abduct your leg.
Both bodybuilders and designers of shoulder pads understand the benefits of creating an appearance of symmetry. The lateral raise, a shoulder abduction exercise, enhances muscular symmetry and makes your hips and waist look smaller in contrast. Stand upright with your feet shoulder distance apart and your knees relaxed. Hold a weight in each hand in front of your body with your palms facing inward and your elbows slightly flexed. Abduct them to shoulder height, and return with control.
Lateral Raise Variations
The lateral raise also works on the lower pulleys of the cable machine. Hold the left handle with right your hand and the right handle with your left hand, and raise your arms to shoulder height. Lie prone on a bench, start with the weights together underneath the bench, then raise your arms to shoulder height. When you're pressed for time, multitask. Wrap a resistance band around your ankles, and hold a weight in each hand. Begin with a squat. As you straighten your legs, abduct your right leg and left arm to the side. Repeat on the other side.
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.