9 Intense Hip Abductor Exercises | How to Improve Your Hip Strength!

By
Mike Kenler
October 13, 2020

What are the Hip Abductors?

Hip abduction refers to any movement away from the body. We use our hip abductors, which connect the thigh bone to the pelvis, to support our body when we stand, walk, and engage in physical activity. 

While many muscles activate to abduct the hips, three muscles are most involved in hip abduction: the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and the tensor fasciae latae. 

The gluteal muscles make up our buttocks. Our glutes are comprised of three muscles: the gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus.

Although the gluteus maximus provides most of the shape, power, and explosiveness of the glutes, the overshadowed gluteus medius and minimus are the prime movers for hip abduction. 

The tensor fasciae latae is a small muscle located in the upper thigh that supports our legs as we walk. While small in size, this hip abductor provides significant stability to our lower half.

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Benefits of Hip Abductor Exercises

While training the hip abductors may not impress people at the gym, we cannot afford to neglect these important muscles. Specifically training the hip abductors is crucial for many reasons.

1. Injury Prevention

First and foremost, strong hip abductors protect against injury. Without sufficient strength in the hip abductors, our knees have the tendency to move inwards when we walk or run, leading to a “knock knee” position.

This position stresses the knee joints and can easily cause strains in muscles throughout the lower body. 

"knock knee" or "valgus" position.

Exercising the hip abductors can help us avoid these issues, maintain proper lower body alignment, and move with safety and efficiency. 

2. Improved Agility

As mentioned before, our hip abductors are responsible for moving our legs away from the body. With weak hips, it is extremely difficult to move nimbly and shift direction at ease.

On the other hand, strong hips allow us to quickly change direction and move about with efficiency. Bolstering the strength of the hip abductors is a surefire way to improve agility!

3. Improved Strength Performance

At this point, strength trainers may be asking themselves why they should care about smaller muscles in the legs. The answer is simple — strong hip abductors provide major stability in the hips that can benefit any lifter.

For example, hip stability is paramount to executing the deadlift and squat motions. With stronger hip abductors, lifters can trust that on their heaviest of sets, their hips will support them.

9 Intense Hip Abductor Exercises

1. Fire Hydrants

The fire hydrant is a simple bodyweight glute isolation exercise that mainly targets the gluteus medius. Assume a starting position on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders. Keeping your leg bent, lift one leg out to the side, stopping at hip-height. Return to the starting position. Repeat!

2. Hip Abduction (Cable)

The cable machine can be a powerful tool in developing the hip abductors. Set up a cable machine at the lowest pulley setting. Attach the ankle slip to your outer foot and hold the machine for stability with your near hand. 

Keeping both legs relatively straight, contract your hip abductors to bring your outer leg straight out to the side. Pause at the top and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat!


3. Leg Out Side Circles

The leg out side circle may look simple, but you will definitely feel the burn during this gluteus medius and minimus exercise. Assume a starting position on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders.

Extend one leg straight out to the side with your toes facing forward. Squeeze your glutes to move your foot in a circular motion. Make sure to switch directions of the circle and to switch legs!

4. Side Lunge (weight optional)

The side lunge is a great lunge alternative that targets your hip abductors. Assume a standing position with your toes slightly flared out and your feet wider than shoulder width apart. 

Keeping your left leg straight, bend your right knee and shift your weight to your right side. Then, transition to the starting position and repeat on the left side. Keep switching legs!


5. Leg Out Side Kickouts

This exercise is a challenging way to test the stamina of your gluteus medius. Assume a starting position on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders. Extend one leg straight out to the side with your toes facing forward.

Bend your knee, then “kick out” your leg to straighten it again. Be sure to switch legs and repeat!


6. 1-Legged Hip Thrust

The leg extended hip thrust is a powerful bodyweight glute and hip exercise. Lie on your back with your knees bent, your arms by your sides and your palms facing down. Straighten one leg up in the air and then push through the heel of the leg that’s down.

Squeeze your glutes to thrust your hips up toward the ceiling. Pause at the top and slowly return to the starting position. Switch legs and repeat!

7. Lying Hip Abductions 

Lying hip abductions primarily target the gluteus medius and the gluteus minimus. To begin, lie on your side with your legs out straight and your upper body supported by your forearms.

Squeeze your glutes to raise your top leg as high as you can. Pause at the top and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for your desired number of repetitions and switch legs!



8. Curtsy Lunge 

The curtsy lunge is another lunge variation that intensely activates the gluteus medius. Start from a standing position with your chest held high and your back straight.

With your left foot straight in front of you, step with your right foot back and to the left. Both of your knees will bend and your legs will be “crossed.” Make sure your left knee is directly over your left ankle.

Next, drive upwards in a controlled fashion to the standing position. Repeat this motion with your right foot out in front. You can switch legs after each repetition or after each set.

9. Leg Out Side Pulses

If you want to target the gluteus medius, leg out side pulses are for you. Assume a starting position on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders. Extend one leg straight out to the side with your toes facing forward. Pulse your leg up and down for your desired number of reps. Be sure to switch legs and repeat!


Looking for a Full Hip Workout?

Follow along to this intense 5 minute at home hip and glute workout!

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Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

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