If you're looking to build a strong backside, chances are you focus on your gluteus maximus by doing lots of squats and lunges. However, strengthening glute muscles that perform hip abduction, or movement of your thighs out to the side, also firms your butt.
Abductor muscles also stabilize your pelvis when you walk or stand on one foot. Among other things, your hip abductor muscles help you walk, run, play sports, dance, get into and out of a car and get onto and off of a bicycle. Abductor muscle exercises help coordinate movements, improve functional fitness, enhance core stability and prevent injuries.
Improve Functional Fitness
Daily tasks require cooperation among multiple muscle groups and joints. Some muscles create the movement while others stabilize your body. Depending on the situation, your hip abductors may serve as movers or as stabilizers.
The primary hip abductor muscles are the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and tensor fascia lata. When one or more of these muscles is weak, your core stability will suffer and your pelvis may tilt to one side when standing on one foot. This will affect your ability to walk, run, step up or lunge. Strong abductor muscles improve functional fitness and prepare your body to perform well in any situation.
Enhance Core Stability, Balance and Posture
Many people assume that the core is made up of just the abdominal muscles. But, while your abdominal muscles are an essential part of your body's core, your core technically includes all the stabilization muscles of the torso.
Therefore, the muscles in your abdomen, back, hips and shoulders are all part of the core and must work together for core stability. Abductor muscle exercises help enhance core stability, which improves balance, posture and overall movement.
Prevent Other Injuries
When your abductor muscles are weak, you're more likely to suffer from injuries, especially in your legs. Weak hip abductors put more pressure on your knees, ankles and feet. Some common injuries that runners and athletes experience are patellofemoral pain syndrome, which causes pain around your kneecap, and iliotibial (IT) band syndrome, which originates along the outside of your knee and the hip.
According to a study published in 2015 by International Journal of Science and Research, including hip abduction exercises in the rehab routine for patellofemoral pain syndrome was more effective in overall pain reduction than strengthening exercises that focused only on the knee.
Strengthen Your Hips
Exercises that strengthen your hip abductor muscles include side-lying hip abduction, standing hip abduction, side planks and side lunges. When you first start doing these exercises, use your own body weight. As you get stronger, you can add resistance in the form of weights or resistance bands.
Exercises that force you to balance over one leg also work the abductor muscles. Start by standing on one foot. Once you can easily balance on one foot, add movements of the other leg and your arms. Work up to forward lunges, step-ups and one-legged squats to further strengthen your abductor muscles. In the gym, the hip abduction machine is another option for strengthening these muscles.
- International Journal of Science and Research: Effect of Hip Abductors and Lateral Rotators Strengthening in Patients With Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome
- Princeton University Athletic Medicine: Pelvic Stabilization, Lateral Hip and Gluteal Strengthening Program
- Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy: Resisted Side Stepping: The Effect of Posture on Hip Abductor Muscle Activation