How to Do Hip Abduction Exercises

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on June 29, 2022
5 min read

Hip abduction exercises can be done in a couple of different positions. You can choose to use equipment like resistance bands or just do the moves on your own. 

Hip abduction workouts are versatile. They can be adapted to work for people of all ages and fitness levels. Everyone can benefit from having stronger hip muscles, especially people who spend a lot of time sitting down. 

Your hip abductors are the muscles that help you pull and lift your legs out to the side. Your hip abductors are located on the outside edges of your hips.  

You use these muscles every time you step to the side. They help you stand and walk around. They also help your legs rotate.

You also use your abductors when you’re standing or walking on one leg, like when you’re going up stairs. They stabilize your pelvis during these motions. 

Hip abduction is the process of using your abductor muscles to move your legs out from your body. It counts as abduction when you lift your legs to the side, away from the center of your body. Hip abduction is an important part of moving and walking around. 

Abduction is basically the opposite of adduction, which is the process of bringing your legs towards one another. 

Hip abduction exercises mainly work out your hip abductors. These include your: 

  • Gluteus medius
  • Gluteus minimus
  • Tensor fascia latae

Hip abduction muscles worked can also include additional hip muscles. These include your hip flexors, at the front of your hips, and your hip extensors. These are essentially your buttock muscles. 

Your core and some muscles in your legs are also strengthened by hip abduction exercises.

People who spend too much time sitting down can have weak hip muscles. If the muscles become too weak ,then your body will try to compensate with other muscles. This can lead to large-scale problems, especially in your lower back and knees. 

Keeping your hip abductors strong will prevent dangerous muscle imbalances and ensure that you can maintain a full range of motion. Strong hip muscles also reduce the likelihood of developing conditions like osteoarthritis in your hips and knees.

There’s even evidence that strengthening your hip muscles can improve some of the symptoms of knee injuries. Strong hips may reduce knee pain and improve function.  

Studies also show that small increases in the strength of your hip muscles can translate to large improvements in your sprinting and running abilities. In addition, athletes with strong hips experience fewer injuries in their legs and lower back.  

The two main positions for hip abduction exercises are standing and lying on your side. 

Follow these steps to properly perform standing hip abductions: 

  • Stand with your back straight and your feet facing forward.
  • Maintain good posture.
  • Move your right leg out to your right side until you feel strain along the outer side of your hip and leg.
  • Bring your leg back down to a standing position.
  • One set of 12 to 15 repetitions is enough for most people.
  • Complete the exercise with your left leg afterward.

While doing standing hip abductions, you need to make sure that you’re not leaning too far forward, backward, or to either side. Keep your abdominal muscles tight throughout the exercise. 

To do a side-lying hip abduction, follow these steps: 

  • Lie down on your left side with your legs stacked on top of one another and toes pointed forward.
  • You can cushion your head on your bent left arm.
  • Gently raise your right leg off of your left leg without rotating your knee or spine.
  • Continue to raise your leg straight up until your hip starts to tilt upward or you feel strain in your lower back or oblique muscles.
  • Return your leg to its starting position in a controlled manner.
  • The number of sets that are right for you depends on your overall fitness level.
  • Don’t forget to roll over to your right side and complete the same number of repetitions with your left leg.

One common mistake that people make with this exercise is lifting their legs too far. Your hip abductors can only stretch out to about a 45° angle. After this, you need to involve your other hip muscles, and the exercise becomes less effective. 

You can use equipment to increase the difficulty of your hip abduction exercises.  

Put bands or stretchy tubing around your legs to increase resistance and help you build strength. For side-lying exercises, the band or tubing should be around your thighs. 

For standing exercises, it’s best to use tubing. You loop one side of the tubing around one ankle. The ankle that’s looped is the leg that you’ll move for the exercise. Then step on the long end of the tubing with the ball of your other foot. 

The closer that you step to the looped side of the tubing, the greater the resistance will be. Try progressively moving your foot closer to your looped ankle to find the level of resistance that’s best for you. 

Another option is to use cuff weights on your ankles. You should start with a 1/2 pound or 1 pound weight. Only add weight once you’re able to easily do three sets of 12 repetitions for two sessions. 

It’s especially important to work out your muscles after you’ve had hip surgery, like a total hip replacement. Regular exercise will help restore strength and mobility to your lower body. 

But you need to be careful. Make sure that you don’t begin exercising too early. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist before attempting any new exercises after surgery.

Luckily, you don’t need to be able to stand for the easiest post-surgery hip abduction exercise. To perform this move, you just need to lay flat on your back with your arms out to your sides for stability. The moves are as follows: 

  • Keep your left leg straight and slide your right leg out to the side as far as you can.
  • Then slide your right leg back to a neutral position.
  • Repeat this 10 times with your right leg.
  • Repeat the exercise 10 times with your left leg.

The total exercise should take about 90 seconds. You should do it three to four times a day. 

Once you’ve progressed in your recovery, you can move on to standing hip abduction exercises. You should use a chair to help you balance. Otherwise, the exercise is identical to the move described above. Move slowly. The entire exercise should take about two minutes and should be repeated three to four times a day.