You may have heard about abduction exercises before, but if you’re being honest: you don’t know what the heck an abduction exercise is–or what muscles are worked during an abduction exercise.
If that’s you, you’re in good company. Back when I first started working out, my personal trainer assigned leg abductions in my workout routine, but I had no idea what the word “abduction” even meant. I just did the exercise.
But let’s see if we can all get a little bit more informed about abduction.
In this article, I’ll break down what “abduction” means, and then we’ll talk about 8 basic abduction exercises for stronger abductor muscles.
What is an Abduction Exercise?
Most likely, to read this article, you lifted your arm away from your body to reach the keyboard and type the words “abduction exercise.”
That, my friend, was an abduction.
In fact, whenever you move a limb away from the midline of the body, you are performing an abduction.
This can happen with an arm, a leg, or even a finger. What’s crazy is that when you reached your hand to type, not only was your arm abducting, but your fingers were too–as they spread across the keyboard to hit different letters.
Here are some other everyday examples of abduction motions:
Walking: Walking is a very natural abduction exercise you do every day without even thinking. When you lift your leg away from your body to step, this is an abduction.
Reaching for that item you never thought you’d need up on your closet shelf: We’ve all done it. Placing that item you never thought you’d need just out of reach. Then a few weeks later, you actually need it.
Whenever you reach to grab any item off of a shelf, your arm extends beyond the midline of your body, which means–as you might’ve guessed–abduction!
Kicking a ball: When you go to the park and kick a soccer ball around with your kid, it's the same thing happening. You cannot kick the ball without extending your leg out from the center of your body.
ABduction Exercises vs. ADduction Exercises
Okay so, I told you about how my personal trainer first added an abduction machine into my routine.
But flash forward a few months, and he added an ADduction exercise into my routine.
I didn’t read closely enough, so I ended up doing aBductions until he and I met, and he was like, “Why are you walking to the abduction machine?”
He then went back into my training program and capitalized the “D,” so I remembered the difference. They’re easy to confuse, but in reality, they’re exact opposites.
ABduction means extending your limbs away from the midline of the body.
ADduction is when you bring your limbs back toward the midline of your body.
They may be opposites, but you really can’t have one without the other. If abduction is Woody, then adduction is Buzz. It's their opposite nature that makes them so inseparable. You can’t lift your limbs (abduction) without eventually returning them back to your body (adduction). (Read more about adductors vs. abductors.)
Muscles Worked During Abduction Exercises & Adduction Exercises
Both also end up working different muscles, which is why it was important enough for my personal trainer to go back in and capitalize the “D.”
ABduction exercises target muscles mostly located on the outer sides of the body, such as:
Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL): Located on the upper front of the thigh, this muscle also assists in hip abduction.
Deltoid Muscles: You’ll find your delts in your shoulders, and these muscles get involved during shoulder abductions, lifting the arm away from the body.
Adductor Longus and Adductor Magnus: These muscles work every time you extend your thigh away from your body.
Serratus Anterior: This muscle, found in the ribcage, will help you pull your shoulder blades away from the midline during scapular abduction.
Adduction exercises–on the other hand– work inner muscles, such as thighs and pecs.
Ultimately, a balance of both abduction and adduction exercises in your routine will help give you a balanced workout!
Now that you’ll never mix up abduction and adduction again–let’s dive in to 8 different abduction exercises that you can add to your workout routine to optimize your abductions in everyday life.
We’ll explore different exercises and the benefits of:
- Hip Abduction Exercises
- Shoulder Abduction Exercise
Hip Abduction Exercises
Benefits of Hip Abduction Exercises
Hip abduction means any time you extend your legs out to the side of your hips. Hip abduction exercises primarily target your:
- Gluteus Medius
- Gluteus Minimus
Working out these muscles during a hip abductor exercise has tons of benefits for your overall health!
Better Hip Strength, Stability, and Balance: The stronger your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, the better your hip strength, stability, and balance. Often these muscles literally take the backseat as we go from sitting in our office jobs to sitting on the couch at home. With abductor exercises, you can prevent these muscles from getting weak.
Injury Prevention: Stronger hip abductors can lead to decreased risk of injury for your hips!
Functional Movements: Whether climbing stairs or bending over–hip abduction is a movement we use during our daily activities. When you prioritize adding these to your workout routine, you ensure strength for every day.
Abduction Exercise #1: Lying Side Leg Raise
How to Perform a Lying Side Leg Raise:
- Lie down on your side on an exercise mat.
- Placing your elbow on the ground and forming a right angle, support your head with your hand.
- Raise the outer leg until you feel muscles engaging in your lower back or obliques.
- Slowly lower your leg back down on top of the other.
- 10-12 reps is ideal here. Then, switch to the other side.
Abduction Exercise #2: Standing Side Leg Raise
How to Perform a Standing Side Leg Raise:
- Stand with your legs close together.
- Place your arms out in front of you or on your hips. You can also use a chair for support.
- Choose a side to start: lift this leg out to your side, keeping your toes flexed as you do so.
- Bring the leg back down.
- Repeat 10-12 times; then, switch sides.
Abduction Exercise #3: Cable Leg Abduction Exercise
How to Perform a Cable Abduction Exercise:
- You’ll need a cable station for this one. Set the pulley to its lowest setting, and attach a cable cuff to the pulley.
- Stand to the side of the cable machine.
- Place the cable cuff on the ankle farthest away from the cable machine.
- Keep your body upright, supporting yourself with the nearest arm on the cable machine.
- Move the farthest leg out to the side of your body, keeping your body upright. Avoid swinging your body around to provide momentum for this motion.
- Return your leg to the starting position.
- 8-10 reps here is ideal. Repeat on the opposite leg.
Abduction Exercise #4: Standing Banded Abduction Exercise
How to Perform a Standing Banded Abduction Exercise
- Use a hip circle or loop resistance band just above your knees.
- Similar to the cable abduction exercise, use one arm to stabilize yourself.
- Extend the opposite leg out to the side, feeling a contraction in your outer glutes as you resist against the band.
- And just like the last few exercises, return the leg to the starting position.
- Complete a set. Then, repeat on the other side.
Abduction Exercise #5: Seated Banded Hip Abduction Exercise
How to Perform a Seated Banded Hip Abduction Exercise:
- For this one, find a chair, bench, or step box to sit on.
- Place a hip circle or loop band above your knees while seated.
- Sit with your legs just about shoulder-width apart, feet firmly placed on the floor.
- Using your knees, press both legs out–against the resistance band, keeping your feet on the floor. Remain seated in an upright position during this motion.
- Slowly return to the starting position. Then repeat.
Abductor Exercise #6: Abduction Machine
The abductor machine looks like an upright bench, but it has two vertical pads with the softer part of the pad facing inward. Before you use this machine, check to make sure it’s not an adductor machine, which will have the softer portion of the pads facing outward.
Some gyms have adjustable machines, so you can switch between these two exercises with a single machine!
How to Use an Abductor Machine:
- Set the machine to the desired weight.
- Adjust the pads to the inwardmost position, allowing your legs to fit in between the pads.
- Pushing against the weight, open your legs up to a wider stance. Pause slightly at the top of this motion.
- Slowly let your legs return to the starting position. Then repeat.
Shoulder Abduction Exercises
Benefits of Shoulder Abduction Exercises
Shoulder abduction exercises primarily work the following muscles:
- Anterior Deltoid
- Lateral Deltoid
- Posterior Deltoid
When you light up your delts through some hardcore shoulder abduction exercises, you’ll definitely feel the burn…and reap major shoulder benefits.
Enhanced Shoulder Strength & Stability: You need shoulder strength to perform a shoulder abduction exercise, and you’ll get stronger shoulders with every move you perform!
Injury Prevention: When your shoulders are stronger, you’ll avoid potential injuries when sports or daily movement require repetitive movement of the shoulder.
Buffer Shoulders: You’ll see pretty quick results when you work your shoulders–resulting in those broader, buffer shoulders you’ve always wanted!
Abduction Exercise #7: Lateral Raises
How to Perform a Lateral Raise:
- For this shoulder abduction exercise, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
- Raise both arms out to each side. Think “pushing out” instead of just raising up.
- Stop at about shoulder height and pause.
- Now lower the weight slowly back to the starting position. Then repeat.
Abduction Exercise #8: Lateral Raise Cable Abduction Exercise
How to Perform a Lateral Raise Cable Abduction Exercise:
- This shoulder abduction exercise is similar to a regular lateral raise–just hop on over to the cable machine. Set the pulley to its lowest setting, and attach a D-handle.
- Stand to the side of the cable machine, using the closer arm to support yourself on the machine and the further arm to grab the D-handle. Pull the D-handle up to your hips. This is your starting position.
- Slightly lean forward. Then, pull the D-handle across your body and out to the side.
- Stop at shoulder height with a slight pause.
- Then, return to the starting position. Repeat on the opposite side after a set.
Abduction Exercise #8: Lateral Raise Banded Abduction Exercise
How to Perform a Lateral Raise Banded Abduction Exercise
- Back to using two arms, this banded abduction exercise requires you to use a resistance band with handles.
- Stand on the resistance band, grabbing each handle with your hands.
- Just like the lateral raise, lift your arms up and out.
- Pause at the top. Then, return to the starting position.
The QL Claw for Your Gluteus Medius!
With abduction motions for your hip, as you target your gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, you’re bound to feel relief from any hip or lower back pain that tends to be associated with those muscles.
Wanna know another easy way to get relief for glute and lower back pain?
Let me introduce you to the QL Claw, our at-home massage device designed to target all types of trigger points in your lower back and glutes. All you have to do is lie down on the QL Claw, and you’ll feel instant relief.
In fact, if you’re looking to target your gluteus medius using the QL Claw, there are some specific ways you can feel fast glute relief!
Check out this video for all the details:
Also, click HERE to check out the 3 different positions you can use for immediate Gluteus Medius relief using the QL Claw: The Chicken Wing, The Figure 4, and The Pretzel.
Trust me, these positions are merciless. Your gluteus medius won’t have a choice but to straighten itself out into painless submission.
To know if you’ve hit the gluteus medius, you’ll feel the muscle give as the QL Claw sinks into it. It’ll feel like going for a massage. Except–the best part is–it’s all right from your home.
So, as you seek to find the perfect abduction exercises to add to your workout routine, pair them with the QL Claw for a perfect blend of hard work and self-care!