This article is brought to you by ISSA (International Sports Sciences Association)
Now more than ever before, you hear about the importance of the glute muscles. The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle group in the human body. It is extremely powerful and strong, stabilizes the body's trunk, and maintains posture.
This means that if it is not strong, it can have a major influence on performance. In fact, this muscle is often found to be underdeveloped. This causes weaknesses and imbalances to arise in the body.
One of the most important groups of muscles within the glute is around the side of the hips. The muscles found here are called hip abductor muscles. Let’s take a look at why this group of muscles is vital and how we can train it to become stronger.
Hip Abductor Muscles and Benefits
The muscles found around the side of the hip are called the hip abductor muscles. This group of muscles is responsible for moving the leg away from the midline of the body. Every time clients step to the side or get out of the car; they use these muscles. They influence how you walk and move your legs.
The hip abductor muscles consist of the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor facia latae or TFL. They help rotate the leg at the hip joint and stabilize the leg, especially in unilateral exercises or movements.
is often overlooked or prescribed in an ineffective manner. Though when done properly, a major benefit of having strong hip abductors is reducing knee valgus. The glutes—more specifically, the abductors—stabilize the leg and pull the leg away from the midline of the body. This means that strong abductors prevent the knees from internally rotating.
Training the hip abductors allows you to increase muscle stimulation in other areas of the body. As humans, we sit a lot during the day, and this causes hip abductors to become weak and inactive. As a result of this, the knees and lower back take on extra stress. This leads to an increased risk of injury. Increasing abductor strength promotes pain relief and increases performance level.
5 Hip Abduction Exercises
Weak hips are common and must be addressed in all clients' programs. Hip abductor exercises can be performed in a variety of ways. This includes using a resistance band or other pieces of equipment. One thing to look out for is excessive pronation of the foot. This shows weakness in the hip abductors. Let’s take a closer look at effective exercises for strengthening the abductor muscles.
Lay on one side of the body with both feet and hips on top of one another. If you lay on the left side, then place your head on your left arm. Keep your knees close to the body and feet in line with your butt. In this position, raise your right knee as far up as possible. It is important you do not rotate your hips or lift your left leg off the ground. Hold at the top and then slowly return to the starting position. You can increase the difficulty or intensity of this exercise by using a mini band around both legs and by holding a dumbbell on the top leg.
Starting in an all-fours position, on your hands and knees. Ensure your hands are in line with your shoulders. Begin by raising your right knee away from the body keeping the leg flexed at a 90-degree angle. Raise the leg up as far as you can without rotating or twisting the hips. To increase the intensity on this exercise, add a dumbbell or weight to the back of the leg.
Side Lying Leg Lift
Begin in a side lying position with your legs stacked on top of each other. If you start by laying on the right side, raise the left leg up off the right leg. Keep the right leg on the ground and bring the left leg as high as you can, keeping the body from moving or twisting. You can rest your head on your right arm. Add a weight or band around the ankles or leg to increase the difficulty.
Prone Leg Extensions
In the prone position, raise one leg in the air. Keep the leg straight and squeeze the glutes while in the air. Slowly lower your leg back to the floor. Be sure to avoid rotating your pelvis when performing this exercise. Repeat the exercise on both sides for the desired number of reps.
Hip Abduction Walks
With a miniband positioned above the knees and feet hip-width apart, bend at the hips and knees. Begin walking in the forward direction and maintain the same hip-width distance between your feet. Do so by pushing your knees and legs out against the band. This stimulates the abductor muscles. Walk for a set distance and repeat.
How to Design a Hip Abduction Program
Implementing hip abduction exercises into a client’s program is important. Do clients need a specific day dedicated to targeting the hip abductor? No. Glute and hip strength can be targeted through an entire lower body workout. Muscle strength in the hip abductor muscle is built over time and actually increases through hip extension exercises too.
Muscle activation techniques are a common approach to a leg workout. Abduction and adduction are two movement prep approaches to warming up the leg and hip muscles. Pain in the lower back and knee is often eliminated when performing hip abduction exercises. This could be as simple as doing banded lateral walks before a set of squats. A weak hip abductor leads to many issues, including internal rotation, knee pain, knee valgus, and weak hips.
Clients can prevent this by implementing a hip abduction exercise segment into each leg workout. As a personal trainer, you might even consider adding a corrective exercise
routine or adding it into their mobility routine.
The hip abductor muscles—glute medius, glute minimus, and TFL—are smaller muscles in the glute that require high-volume training. This can be done before, during, or after a workout and is essential. Low rep ranges are not as beneficial for movements like these because you are unable to load the body with too much weight. Aim for 20 or more reps for 3 sets of each exercise.