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Standing Hip Abduction: How To, Advanced Alternatives, And MORE!!!

Glute building exercise

 

Looking for a simple and effective exercise for isolating the gluteus medius?

Or are you looking to improve athletic performance, or hoping to prevent lower back pain? Well, look no further, the standing hip abduction is a great movement to add to your routine of functional exercises.

In this post, we’ll go over how to properly complete the standing hip abduction exercise as well as some advanced hip abduction movements to help you strengthen and grow your lateral glutes.


Standing Hip Abduction - How to

Stand upright, feet hip-width apart. If necessary, hold onto a solid surface, such as a wall or a chair for support.

Engage your core muscles for stability and proper form during the exercise.

Gradually lift one leg out to the side while maintaining it straight. Instead of swinging your leg, focus on moving it using your abduction muscles

standing hip abduction

Lift out until you feel enough resistance without letting your form break down.

Hold briefly at the top and attempt to balance without using assistance. (this activates the stabilizing muscles of your standing leg)

Carefully lower your leg back to its starting position. 

Repeat for 10-15 reps on one leg before moving to the other. Aim for two to three sets on each side.


Progression: As you gain comfort and balance, try completing without any support. This will help improve your balance and develop your abductors more efficiently.

Gluteus medius tear test: If you suffer from severe glute pain and struggle with completing standing hip abductions, this could be an indication of a possible glute tear.


Muscles worked

The main muscles worked are the Gluteus medius, Gluteus Minimus, and Tensor Fascia Latae (TFL) - from left to right.

Gluteus mediusGluteus minimusTFL muscle

Additional hip muscles such as the Piriformis and Gluteus Maximus play a role, however, they are not as active as the Gluteus Medius and Minimus.

Hip flexors and abdominal muscles are also active during standing hip abduction.

 

Adductors vs Abductors

Abductors

Abductor muscles are located on the outer hip and thigh. Abductors push limbs away from the body in a lateral motion. They are essential for lateral mobility, balance, and one-leg support. Strengthening the abductors enhances agility, balance, and stability, which benefits athletes and increases overall movement effectiveness.

Adductors

Adductor muscles are located in the inner thighs and are responsible for pulling your legs toward your body's midline, assisting in walking, running, and crossing legs. Strengthening adductors will increase lower-body stability, help avoid injuries, and improve daily mobility. Neglecting adductors might result in stiff hips and tightness.

 

Advanced Abduction

Below are several advanced hip abduction exercises for you to test out as you progress along your fitness journey.


Banded Abduction

Bands are great resistance for increasing difficulty during standing hip abductions. Resistance bands can be utilized for strengthening hip abductors in lateral walks, fire hydrants, glute bridges, clam shells, side lying abduction, and many more exercises.

Banded Abduction

Cable Abduction

On the more advanced side of weighted resistance, we have cable abduction. Cable abduction is special because it keeps resistance throughout the entire movement. 

You will need an ankle strap that secures your leg to the cable. Start with a lighter weight and shoot for a higher rep range (10-15+). Avoid using momentum and keep a solid form.

You should feel both legs activated (the abductor leg and stabilizer leg).

Standing cable abduction


Glute Med Kickback

The difference between standing hip abduction and glute med kickbacks are the angle your leg takes during the movement.

Standing hip abduction is a lateral path whereas the gluteus medius kickback is a slightly backward motion.

The gluteus medius muscle is one of the main active muscles during glute med kickbacks and standing hip abduction, however, the gluteus maximus, and hamstrings are much more active during kickbacks. 

The gluteus minimus and TFL are much more active during standing hip abduction. 

The angle of the leg can make a major difference in muscles worked.

Glute med kickback

Side Plank w/ Hip Abduction

For those who want a serious challenge, I recommend trying out hip abduction while holding a side plank.

Great stability exercise that targets both sets of hip abductors.

 

 

Additional Glute Information:

Glutues medius pain

Gluteus medius stretch

Gluteus medius exercises for lower back relief

Best exercises for gluteus medius and minimus

   

FAQ:

Is standing hip abduction better than side-lying abduction?

While both have benefits, standing hip abduction is better for improving balance, activating stabilizing muscles, functional strength, and engaging the core. 

Side-lying hip abduction is more beneficial in isolating hip abductor muscles, making it a great option for beginners and those looking to directly focus lateral glute muscles.

How do you release the gluteus medius?

Use a ball or a tool such as the QL Claw and place it underneath the gluteus medius muscle. Make sure to place the tool in the area where the muscle feels the tightest with the most built-up tension (this is typically the most painful area in the muscle).

With a tool like the QL Claw make sure your tailbone is directly on the ramp (the big end) of the Claw, and let your leg fall to the side with the hook.

You may need to reposition to find the tender spots in the Gluteus Medius. The muscle is wide and there may be multiple knots and trigger points to work out.

Sink into the tool when you find the trigger point and allow your muscles to loosen.

If my glutes are sore are they growing?

The short answer in most cases is yes. If you exercise your glutes directly and eat properly to fuel your training, sore glutes are the cost of future growth. 

However, if you ARE NOT a regular gym goer and have constant soreness, your glutes are likely not growing and there is a deeper issue at hand. 

Soreness can be caused by a variety of factors, including injury, stress, muscle tension from overuse, a sedentary lifestyle, and even dehydration.

Can I work out with sore muscles?

Yes, you can as long as it's not affecting your movement. If your sore muscles are not hindering your form and you feel comfortable, then by all means go for it. 





Sources:

[1] Davies, Clair, and Amber Davies. The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief. 3rd ed., New Harbinger Publications, Inc., 2013.

[2] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

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