Your hip abductors are muscles that shape your butt and help you open and close your legs, which is called abduction. Sitting too long can compress these muscles, causing them to feel tight. Exercise and stretching can help loosen and strengthen tight hip abductors, easing any pain you may feel.
Using an exercise ball in your workout can help increase your range of motion, including how wide you can spread your legs, says Colleen Craig, author of “Pilates on the Ball." Most exercise balls measure between 65 and 75 centimeters, so pick one that fits your needs. You should be able to comfortably lie across it and still touch the ground with your hands and feet. Keep in mind that the more inflated the ball, the better it can support your body and help stabilize you during exercises that stretch and strengthen your hip-abductor muscles.
Exercise balls lend themselves for use in a variety of ways to help loosen and strengthen tight hip abductors. To try a right-legged sidekick, lean sideways across the ball on your left side. The ball should support you from your left armpit down to your left hip. Your left hand should be on the ground. Slowly raise your right leg until it is parallel to the ground, and hold it in this position for 10 seconds before lowering it back to its starting place. Do 10 sidekicks with this leg before switching sides and repeating the exercise with your right leg.
Single- and double-leg squats can help strengthen your hip abductors, says the American Council on Exercise. Incorporate an exercise ball by placing it between your lower back and a wall, and stand with your feet about hip-width apart. Bending your knees, slowly lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the ground. The ball should roll between your lower back and the wall throughout this exercise. Slowly rise until you’re back where you started, and repeat 10 times. You can intensify this exercise by lifting one leg and hovering it off of the ground while squatting with one knee bent.
To do a side extension, lie across the ball so that your hands are on the ground on one side and your feet are on the ground on the other side. Slowly lift you right leg until it is hip level and then extend it to the right. Once you’ve fully extended your right leg, begin to rotate it clockwise and then counterclockwise for between 30 and 60 seconds before resetting and repeating with your other leg.
The exercise ball can assist in isometric, or static, exercises as well. For the Plank pose, get into a pushup position with your hands on the ball and your toes on the ground. Keeping your body long between these two balance points, tighten your abs and hold for the duration of two or three breaths. The more you perform this exercise, the longer you’ll likely be able to hold the plank position.
Bridge pose is an isometric exercise that can strengthen your hip abductors and calves. Lie on the ground, bend your knees so that your legs are parallel to the ground and rest your feet on the ball. Slowly lift and push your hips up without lifting your shoulders off the ground. You can extend your arms on the ground to help provide support. Hold in this position for three or four breaths before slowly lowering your hips back to the ground. You can intensify this exercise by crossing one leg over the other while lifting your hips off the ground.
William Henderson has been writing for newspapers, magazines and journals for more than 15 years. He served as editor of the "New England Blade" and is a former contributor to "The Advocate." His work has also appeared on The Good Men Project, Life By Me and The Huffington Post.