The Med Gym
Hip Strength & Stability Week 5 - Hip Abductor Strength
By David Drinks
This week we’re on to week 5 of the Hip Strength & Stability series. In this week’s video, we’re showing you two exercises for your lateral hip muscles, or your hip abductors.
The hip abductors are a very important group of muscles that you need to have strong and stable in order to move efficiently and also prevent joint pain.
To strengthen these muscles, we're going to go over the Side-Lying Hip Abduction, and the Band-Resisted Side Step exercises. The hip abduction is a more basic exercise to begin building lateral hip strength. We'll start there, but then move to an important progression - the band-resisted side step on your feet.
These are both excellent hip strength and stability exercises, but the side step on your feet offers an important progression - it puts you in a more functional position that relates to everyday life.
So far, we’ve been doing all our hip exercises while laying on the ground. These exercises are a great place to start because they allow you to start from a more stable position with less force from gravity to control with your hips.
However, once you begin to build some baseline hip strength and stability with these ground-based exercises, it soon becomes time to move up to doing it on your feet!
After all, our goal is to make sure that the exercises we’re doing can transfer over to real life. If you never progress to working on your hip strength & stability while standing up, then you’ll never get all the benefits derived from training your hips to transfer to real-life activities.
If you think about the different challenges that you encounter in an upright posture versus laying on the ground, you have a lot more for your hips to do.
When standing up and walking around, you must:
Use the muscles to work against gravity;
Engage more of the hip muscles to transition in and out of a single leg stance when walking or moving anywhere;
Engage the abdominal and back muscles to hold an upright posture, both of which have an effect on the pelvis and hips.
On top of all that, depending on what activity you’re doing - whether it’s standing, walking, climbing, running, jumping, or side-stepping – you need to engage many different hip muscles to do it effectively.
With all that said, you can see how important it is to progress your hip strength & stability training to on your feet.
However, this also means that you will be challenged to an even greater degree to control the hips and the pelvis without compensating while exercising on your feet. That’s why it’s not only important to work on hip strength & stability on your feet, but also to be sure that you’re doing these exercises properly.
So, we'll start today by laying down and working on hip abductor muscle strength in the side-lying hip abduction, and then we'll make the important progression to doing lateral hip work on your feet in the band-resisted side step.
These exercises are two of the best ways that we can work on many of the lateral hip muscles that we discussed in the previous few weeks. However, instead of working on hip rotation, we’ll be focusing on what we call hip abduction.
Hip abduction is the act of moving your leg straight out to the side. It is a directly lateral movement, and it involves the hip abductor muscles – many of which also serve to externally rotate the hip as we discussed in exercises like the clamshells.
Because we’re working many of the same muscles as we did over the past few weeks, but doing so in a different way, this becomes a great compliment to the previous exercises. Many times, you may work the same muscles in two different exercises, but you’ll be working them in different planes of motion. Therefore, some of the muscles that were not working as much in the clamshells or bridges will be working more now and vice versa.
That’s why you should work the hips in different postures, and with different exercises. One exercise alone won’t get you all the benefits that you need!
Also of importance, these muscles don’t just work to move the leg. They also work (perhaps to an even greater degree) to stabilize the hip and pelvis during any kind of movement, whether that’s side to side movement or forward and backward movement.
This is very important because it means that the same muscles we train in the band-resisted side step exercise also work to prevent your hips from getting into bad positions during movement that can lead to premature wear and tear of the hips, knees, and other joints in the body.
A good example of when these muscles are not doing their job is when someone takes a step and their hip kicks out to the side rather than staying underneath their body. This side to side sway of the hips during walking indicates that the hip abductor muscles are not engaging properly to stabilize the hips.
This not only leads to inefficient movement, but it also results in misalignment of the joints and thus more wear and tear over time.
So, if you want to keep your hips healthy and moving most efficiently, work on your side-lying hip abductions, and maybe even more importantly, your band-resisted side steps to keep those hip abductors strong!
Check out the video below to learn how to perform them properly:
Both of these exercises work well as part of a regular exercise routine, or a daily hip strengthening exercise if you have a lot of room for improvement. They're exercises that I like to cycle in and out of my client’s routines, particularly if they have a problem with hip or knee pain or weakness.
Typically, I like to have clients perform them at least 2-3x/week, starting with 1-2 sets of 10 reps, and working up to 3-4 sets of 10 reps on each side.
For each of them, start with light resistance and work up to greater resistance over time with ankle weights and bands.
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