Standing hip abduction is one of the most effective but underutilized exercises for improving hip strength and posture.
In fact, a meta-analysis titled “Hip abductor strengthening in patients diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis” suggested that strengthening the hip abductor muscles positively impacted knee pain and different functional outcomes. (1)
I have created an easy-to-follow guide to teach you how to perform standing hip abduction correctly. Not only that, but you will also learn which muscles are targeted during this movement and their benefits.
How To Perform Standing Hip Abduction: Step-By-Step Guide
Below is an easy-to-follow step-by-step guide that will teach you how to perform standing hip abduction correctly to maximize performance and avoid injuries.
Step One — Assume a Standing Starting Position
Hold onto a sturdy object like a chair, squat rack, or even resting your hands on the wall. Keep your back straight, look ahead, and assume a hip-width stance.
Pro Tip: Brace your core to achieve better balance throughout the whole movement.
Step Two — Abduct the Working Leg (Concentric Phase)
Start the exercise by raising (abducting) your right leg off the floor and lifting it out to the side. Your leg should travel laterally away from your body. Hold your leg straight at the peak of the hip abduction for one second, maintaining the maximum extension.
Pro Tip: Keep your hips neutral by activating your obliques. Also, squeeze your glutes at the isometric contraction point at the top for better muscle activation and hypertrophy.
Step Three — Adduct the Working Leg (Eccentric Phase)
Slowly return your right leg to the starting position by returning it to the starting position. The slower you perform this eccentric portion of the movement, the more muscles and control you will build. One rep is completed after you return your leg to the starting position. Perform for the desired number of reps before switching sides.
Pro Tip: Change the tempo of the eccentric portion of the exercise. The slower the eccentric phase, the more hypertrophy you will induce in your muscle fibers.
Muscles Worked in Standing Hip Abduction
Here are the primary muscles working during standing hip abduction:
- Gluteus medius
- Gluteus minimus
Also, here are the secondary (synergistic muscles) worked during the same exercise:
- Tensor fasciae latae (TFL)
- Gluteus maximus
- Core musculature
- Adductors (primarily as stabilizers, but never on the working side of the leg since those antagonistic muscles need to be relaxed to allow for movement to occur)
Benefits of Standing Hip Abduction
Below are the most important benefits of the standing hip abduction exercise.
Strengthening Hip Muscles
The standing hip abduction strengthens your hip muscles, including the gluteus medius, minimus, and additional supporting muscles. The gluteus medius is especially important to strengthen since it is a dynamic stabilizer of the knee joint in the frontal plane of motion.
Other hip muscles are also crucial for strengthening your core and improving overall stability.
Improving Balance and Stability
Hip muscles are crucial for balance and stability, and this exercise is especially effective at strengthening them. You greatly enhance your bilateral stability by strengthening your gluteus medius, minimus, and tensor fasciae latae.
Reducing Injury Risk
It isn’t a coincidence that many fitness experts recommend hip abduction to older people and those with certain movement impairments. Strength and conditioning coaches usually incorporate this exercise into athletes’ warm-up sessions.
Standing hip abduction will effectively strengthen the muscles responsible for keeping your body stable. This alone will reduce the chance of potential injuries.
Enhancing Core Strength
Contrary to popular opinion, the core isn’t just your abdominal muscles. The core is a complex structure of hip, back, and abdominal muscles incorporated in most exercises and daily activities.
Standing hip abduction improves hip strength and stability, which keeps the body stable in the sagittal, frontal, and transverse planes of motion.
Our core strength influences our posture. Enhancing our core strength and functionality reduces the likelihood of posture deterioration, which, over time, can lead to chronic back pain.
In fact, a randomized controlled clinical concluded that core exercises are more effective than regular physical therapy sessions at reducing lower back pain. (2)
Incorporating standing hip abduction exercises into your routine can improve your posture and help avoid lower back pain and similar issues.
Standing Hip Abduction Variations and Alternatives
Below are a few hip abduction variations and alternatives you can implement into your workout routine.
Lying Side Leg Raises
Lying side leg raises are effectively the same exercise as the standing hip adduction one.
- Lie on your side on the floor.
- Keep your back straight, hips neutral, legs stacked, knees extended, and ankles in slight dorsiflexion.
- Place your hands on the floor for added stability.
- Start the exercise by raising your upper leg towards the ceiling.
- When you reach the end range of motion, hold that position for one second and contract your glutes.
- Return to the starting position and repeat for the desired reps before changing sides.
Pro Tip: Slightly internally rotate the hip of your working leg. This will increase the activation of your glute and other hip muscles.
Banded clamshells are another fantastic alternative you can incorporate into your lower body workouts or warm-ups, depending on your fitness level. These are great because picking a different band can tweak the resistance.
- Assume a lying position just like in the previous exercise; this time, bend your knees and hips to bring the knees closer to your chest.
- Keep your back straight and slightly flex your ankles.
- Your arms should be extended in front of your chest or left on the ground, based on your preference.
- Wrap the band around your legs, just above your knees.
- Start the exercise by raising your upper leg towards the ceiling.
- Hold the isometric contraction point for one second.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of reps before switching legs.
Pro Tip: Use slow eccentrics to fire up the hip muscles. This will build strength and promote muscle hypertrophy faster.
Side lunges are an advanced lunge variation. These will also require certain adductor strength and endurance, so keep that in mind.
- Stand upright with your back flat, eyes locked straight ahead, knees slightly bent, and feet hip-width apart.
- Keep your hands behind your head or extend them in front of your body, depending on your preference.
- Start the exercise by lunging on your right side. This will require ankle dorsiflexion, knee flexion, and hip abduction.
- When you reach the bottom portion of the exercise, hold that position for one second.
- Reverse the motion to return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg on the opposite side.
- Alternate between legs for the desired number of reps.
Pro Tip: Bend forward in your hips as you lower on each side to further boost posterior chain activation.
Standing Hip Abduction With Resistance Bands
This is the same exercise as the standing hip abduction, but we are adding the resistance bands to increase the difficulty.
- Place the resistance band around your legs above your knees.
- Stand upright with a hip-width stance.
- Hold onto a sturdy object like a chair or squat rack.
- Start the exercise by lifting your right leg off the floor and lifting it out. Your leg should travel laterally away from your body.
- Hold the top of the ROM for one second.
- Slowly return your right leg to the starting position.
- One rep is completed after you return your leg to the starting position.
- Perform the desired number of reps before switching sides.
Pro Tip: Perform slow eccentrics to maximize hypertrophy and strength gains.
Side Plank With Leg Lift
This hybrid exercise will challenge your core and help build stability.
- Lie on your side on the floor on your elbow, just like you do when performing regular side planks.
- Assume the side plank position and lift the upper leg towards the ceiling.
- When you reach the end range of motion, hold that position for one second.
- Reverse the motion to return to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired reps before switching sides.
Pro Tip: Pick a weight in your upper hand and hold it in front of your torso during the exercise to increase difficulty.
Why is hip abduction good?
The hip abduction exercise is good for multiple reasons, including improved hip strength, balance, and stability, reduced risk of potential injuries, enhanced core strength, and overall better posture.
You can implement these exercises into your existing warm-up routines. Conversely, depending on your preferences and fitness goals, you could dedicate whole workouts to them.
Is hip abduction better standing or sitting?
In my experience, it is better to perform the hip abduction exercise while standing because it will activate more stabilizer muscles and make the exercise more functional.
Also, aren’t we already sitting enough? We should aim to modify almost all exercises to perform them in some form of athletic stance to boost the time we spend on our legs and activate stabilizer muscles.
Will hip abduction widen hips?
Hip abduction exercises will build stronger and bigger posterior chain muscles, but they won’t change the structure of your hips. They may appear bigger because of the muscle hypertrophy on the lateral-posterior side of your body, but that doesn’t mean you changed the structure of your hip bone.
How often should you do hip abduction?
This will depend on your training experience and objectives. I recommend implementing them in your warm-up sessions instead of dedicating an entire workout session to them.
Can standing hip abduction tone my hips?
Yes, hip abduction exercises will definitely build strong and sculpted posterior chain muscles. These exercises score high for aesthetics and provide functional benefits and preventive measures against knee and hip pain.
Standing hip abduction exercises should be a staple in your workout routine. I recommend incorporating them into your warm-up routine. This will improve your lower body workouts by improving your mobility.
Standing hip abduction not only reduces the risk of potential injuries and combats knee and hip pain but also enhances your posture, countering the threats posed by modern lifestyle habits. In the comments below, let me know how you implement standing hip abduction into your workout routine.
- Thomas DT, R S, Prabhakar AJ, Dineshbhai PV, Eapen C. Hip abductor strengthening in patients diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis – a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2022;23(1):622. Published 2022 Jun 29. doi:10.1186/s12891-022-05557-6
- Akhtar MW, Karimi H, Gilani SA. Effectiveness of core stabilization exercises and routine exercise therapy in management of pain in chronic non-specific low back pain: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Pak J Med Sci. 2017;33(4):1002-1006. doi:10.12669/pjms.334.12664
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