Strong thigh muscles are important for stabilizing your hip during everyday movements such as walking and climbing stairs. The hip abductors and adductors work in opposition to draw your thighs apart and toward each other, respectively.
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Although these muscles often get less attention than the quads and hamstrings, strengthening your hip abductors and hip adductors with exercises can help you maintain proper pelvic position and reduce stress on your knees and lower back.
Read more: Hip Alignment Exercises
Understanding the Abductors and Adductors
The primary hip abductors include the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus muscles, located on the outer hip. Both muscles attach to the side of the pelvis, or ilium, and insert onto the outer thigh bone, or femur.
When they contract, they abduct the hip, lifting the thigh out to the side. They also stabilize the pelvis while you're walking, running and standing on one leg. The hip adductors are a group of five muscles on the inner thigh. They arise from various points on the pelvis and attach to the back of the thigh and shin bones. When the adductors contract, they adduct the hip, pulling the thighs toward each other.
1. Hip Abduction Exercises
Move 1: Standing Hip Abduction
- Shift your weight onto one leg.
- Lift the opposite leg out to the side for two to three seconds and then lower the leg to bring the thighs back together.
- To add resistance, use ankle weights or a low cable pulley machine, as demonstrated by ExRx.net.
Hold on to the back of a chair or other stable object if needed to help you maintain balance during this standing exercise.
Move 2: Floor Hip Abduction
- Lie on your side on a mat.
- Support your head with your bottom forearm and place your top hand on the floor in front of you to maintain your balance.
- Lift your top leg toward the ceiling and then lower to the starting position. Use ankle weights to increase the difficulty.
- Turn over and repeat for the other leg.
2. Hip Adduction Exercises
Move 1: Floor Hip Adduction
- Lie on your side on a mat.
- Support yourself on your bottom forearm and place your top hand on the floor in front of you.
- Bend your top leg and position your top foot on the floor in front of your bottom thigh, as demonstrated by the National Medical Science Information Center.
- Lift your bottom leg toward the ceiling and then lower it to the floor. To add resistance, add ankle weights.
You can also perform standing hip adductions with a low cable pulley machine or do seated hip adductions using an adductor machine.
Guidelines: Abduction and Adduction Exercises
Before beginning your strength-training workout, warm up your muscles with dynamic movements of your hips and legs. Structure your workouts to fit your goals.
For example, to build endurance strength, perform at least 10 repetitions per set using lighter weights, for two to five sets, as recommended by the American Council on Exercise. For maximum strength, lift heavier weights at lower repetitions.