The hip abductor muscles refer to an important muscle group that helps stabilize the hips as a person moves. If these muscles weaken, it can put additional pressure on the hips, knees, and back, which can make walking painful and difficult. People can perform a variety of exercises to help strengthen these muscles.

The hip abductor muscles are present in the thigh area of each leg and help control leg movement away from the body’s midline. This means they control sideways movement and play a role in everyday activities, such as sidestepping, getting out of bed, or getting out of the car.

Weak hip abductor muscles may result in injuries or pain in and around the hips. They may also cause instability in the pelvic area while walking. Strengthening these muscles may increase athletic performance, reduce the risk of certain injuries, and promote healthy hip function.

In this article, we will suggest some hip abductor exercises that people can perform at home.

A person preparing to perform some hip abduction exercises.Share on Pinterest
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The hips refer to the large weight-bearing joints present on either side of the pelvic girdle. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint that connects the trunk to the legs. The primary function of this joint is to support the weight of the body and allow mobility.

Many muscles in the hips enable a range of motion, such as abduction. This movement describes moving a body part away from the body’s centerline — such as moving the right leg toward the right — or away from the body.

Three main muscles make up the hip abductor region. These include:

  • The gluteus medius: This muscle reaches down toward the femur and is the primary hip abductor muscle. It moves the thigh outwards and controls its medial rotation.
  • The gluteus minimus: This muscle lies below the gluteus medius and predominantly stabilizes the hip. It also helps to move the thigh outward and control medical rotation.
  • The tensor fasciae latae: This muscle helps support internal rotation, flexion, and abduction of the hips. It also works to support knee flexion and rotation.

There are many hip-strengthening exercises available that target the hip abductor muscles. Before starting these exercises, it is advisable for a person to consult with a doctor. A medical professional can provide information about what exercises are right for each person.

With a doctor’s approval, a person can try incorporating the following exercises into a workout routine. It is important to start slowly and not continue with a given exercise if it causes any pain.

Standing abduction

To perform this exercise, stand straight with the legs approximately shoulder-width apart. Keep one leg planted firmly on the ground. Move the other leg slowly upward to the side, keeping the leg straight.

Make sure to keep the toes pointed during this exercise. A slight bend in the stable leg can also help protect the knees. Holding onto a chair or a wall can help with balance if needed.

Lying abduction

Also known as a lateral leg raise, this exercise involves lying on the side of the body and slowly raising and lowering the top leg in an upward motion.

A person may wish to bend the lower leg for added support and aim to raise the top leg to a 45-degree angle.

For an added challenge, consider using a resistance band around the thigh area. This can help increase the strengthening benefits of lying abduction.

Clamshell raise

The clamshell raise is a regular exercise for a floor-based Pilates class. To perform a clamshell raise, lie on the side with the knees bent at a 90-degree angle.

Keep the feet together, and slowly raise the top knee upward. To increase the intensity, people can use a resistance band around the thighs during this exercise.

Resistance band walking

Some people also call resistance band walking “the monster walk.” Wrap a resistance band around the ankles. Keep the knees apart with a slight bend.

Slowly move one foot about 2–3 feet forwards in a diagonal step. Repeat with the opposite leg and continue walking for 15 or 20 steps.

Water walking

People with joint problems or limited range of motion can also perform movements in the water as this places less strain on the hips and may provide more mobility.

Other workouts, such as water aerobics, may also benefit people recovering from injuries or who have experienced joint damage. Pool-based classes are a great way to build strength with limited resistance.

Performing exercises such as these can help strengthen the hip abductor muscles and reduce the chance of future injury. Such exercises can be particularly helpful for athletes or for older individuals.

These exercises should not be painful. It is normal to feel sore after starting a new exercise program. However, if a person feels any pain during an exercise, it is advisable to stop and rest. Consult with a doctor to find a different exercise or technique that does not cause pain.

Hip abduction exercises can help strengthen the hip area and increase flexibility. Strengthening and stretching these muscles can restore a range of motion and help prevent pain and potential injury.

Strengthening the hip abductors can also help with injury recovery. For example, researchers have found that strong abductors support recovery from a knee meniscus injury. Developing hip abductor strength may help improve the knee and hip joint’s strength and balance.

A 2020 study also suggests that hip abductor exercises may help manage the symptoms of knee osteoarthritis. These exercises can present a safe and drug-free option for managing pain associated with arthritis.

Performing exercises with improper form can lead to overstrain or, in some cases, injury.

These exercises should not result in pain, and anyone experiencing discomfort performing these movements should cease the action. Anyone interested in strengthening their hip abductors should check with a doctor to make sure certain exercises are safe for them.

Some exercises may require balancing on one leg or walking with a resistance band. People working on their balance may want to consider focusing on floor-based exercises.

The hip abductors form a group of muscles around the thighs and hips. These muscles help stabilize the hip joint and help support the body during many common movements. Strengthening these muscles can help prevent injury or aid in recovery.

A person can safely perform many hip abduction exercises in their home. People interested in strengthening their hip abductors can discuss exercise options with a doctor before starting a new workout regimen.