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 had a positive effect on knee pain and various functional outcomes. (1)
I’ve created an easy-to-follow tutorial to teach you how to properly perform a standing hip abduction. Not only that, but you’ll also learn which muscles are targeted during this movement and their benefits.
How to perform a standing hip abduction: a step-by-step guide
Below is a simple step-by-step guide that will teach you how to properly perform standing hip abduction to maximize performance and avoid injury.
Step One Take a standing starting position
Hold on to a sturdy object such as a chair, squat rack, or even rest your hands on a wall. Keep your back straight, look forward and take a hip-width stance.
Pro tip: Brace your core to achieve better balance throughout the movement.
Step Two Abduct the working leg (concentric phase)
Begin the exercise by lifting (separating) your right leg from the floor and raising it to the side. Your leg should go to the side of your body. Hold the leg straight at peak hip abduction for one second, maintaining maximum extension.
Pro tip: Keep your hips neutral by activating your obliques. Also, squeeze your glutes at the point of isometric contraction at the top for better muscle activation and hypertrophy.
Step Three Gather the working leg (eccentric phase)
Slowly return the 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 muscle and control you’ll build. One repetition is completed after you return the leg to the starting position. Perform the desired number of repetitions before switching sides.
Pro tip: Change the tempo of the eccentric part of the exercise. The slower the eccentric phase, the more hypertrophy you will cause in your muscle fibers.
Muscles worked during standing hip abduction
Here are the primary muscles that work during standing hip abduction:
- Gluteus medius
- Gluteus minimus
Also, here are the secondary (synergistic) muscles that were worked during the same exercise:
- Tensor fasciae latae (TFL)
- Gluteus Maximus
- The core of the musculature
- Adductors (primarily as stabilizers, but never on the working side of the leg as these antagonistic muscles must be relaxed to allow movement)
Benefits of standing hip abduction
Below are the most important benefits of the standing hip abduction exercise.
Strengthening the hip muscles
Standing hip abduction strengthens hip muscles, including gluteus medius, minimus and additional supporting muscles. The gluteus medius is particularly important for strengthening because it is a dynamic stabilizer of the knee joint in the frontal plane of movement.
Other hip muscles are also key to strengthening your core and improving overall stability.
Improving balance and stability
The hip muscles are crucial for balance and stability, and this exercise is particularly effective in strengthening them. You greatly improve your bilateral stability by strengthening the gluteus medius, minimus and tensor fasciae latae.
Reducing the risk of injury
It’s no accident that many fitness experts recommend hip abduction to the elderly and those with certain mobility impairments. Strength and conditioning coaches usually include this exercise in their athletes’ warm-up sessions.
Standing hip abduction will effectively strengthen muscles responsible for keeping your body stable. This alone will reduce the possibility of potential injuries.
Increasing core strength
Contrary to popular belief, the core isn’t just your abs. The core is a complex structure of hip, back and abdominal muscles involved 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 affects our posture. Increasing our core strength and functionality reduces the likelihood of poor posture, which can lead to chronic back pain over time.
In fact, a randomized controlled clinical trial concluded that core exercises were more effective than regular physical therapy sessions in reducing low back pain. (2)
Incorporating standing hip abduction exercises into your routine can improve your posture and help avoid lower back pain and similar problems.
Standing hip abduction variations and alternatives
Below are a few hip abduction variations and alternatives that you can incorporate into your exercise routine.
Lying side leg raise
Lying lateral leg raises are actually the same exercise as standing hip adduction.
- 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.
- Begin the exercise by lifting your upper leg toward the ceiling.
- When you reach the end of the range of motion, hold the position for one second and contract your glutes.
- Return to starting position and repeat for desired reps before switching sides.
Pro tip: Gently internally rotate the hip of your working leg. This will increase the activation of the glutes and other hip muscles.
Banded clamshells are another fantastic alternative that you can incorporate into lower body exercises or warm-ups, depending on your fitness level. This is great because choosing a different band can adjust the resistance.
- Assume a lying position as in the previous exercise; this time, bend your knees and hips to bring your knees closer to your chest.
- Keep your back straight and bend your ankles slightly.
- The arms should be extended in front of the chest or left on the ground, depending on your preference.
- Wrap the tape around your legs, just above your knees.
- Begin the exercise by lifting your upper leg toward the ceiling.
- Hold the isometric contraction point for one second.
- Slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat for the desired number of repetitions before switching legs.
Pro tip: Use slow eccentrics to activate your hip muscles. This will increase strength and accelerate muscle hypertrophy.
Lateral lunges are an advanced variation of lunges. This will also require some adductor strength and endurance, so keep that in mind.
- Stand tall with a straight back, eyes fixed forward, 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.
- Begin the exercise by jumping to the right side. This will require ankle dorsiflexion, knee flexion, and hip abduction.
- When you reach the bottom of the exercise, hold that position for one second.
- Reverse the movement to return to the starting position and repeat with the other leg on the opposite side.
- Alternate legs for the desired number of repetitions.
Pro tip: Bend forward at the hips as you lower on each side to further increase the activation of the posterior chain.
Standing hip abduction with resistance bands
This is the same exercise as the standing hip abduction, but we add resistance bands to increase the difficulty.
- Place a resistance band around your legs above your knees.
- Stand tall with a hip-width stance.
- Hold on to a sturdy object such as a chair or squat rack.
- Begin the exercise by lifting your right leg off the floor and lifting it up. Your leg should go to the side of your body.
- Hold the top of the ROM for one second.
- Slowly return the right leg to the starting position.
- One repetition is completed after you return the leg to the starting position.
- Perform the desired number of repetitions before switching sides.
Pro tip: Perform slow eccentrics to maximize hypertrophy and strength gains.
Side plank with leg raises
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 doing regular side planks.
- Get into a side plank position and lift your top leg toward the ceiling.
- When you reach the end of the range of motion, hold that position for one second.
- Reverse the movement to return to the starting position.
- Repeat for desired reps before switching sides.
Pro tip: Choose an upper arm weight and hold it in front of your torso during the exercise to increase the difficulty.
Why is hip abduction good?
The hip abduction exercise is good for a number of reasons, including improved hip strength, balance and stability, reduced risk of potential injury, improved core strength, and overall better posture.
You can work these exercises into your existing warm-up routines. Conversely, depending on your preferences and fitness goals, you can dedicate entire 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, are we sitting enough already? We should aim to modify almost all exercises to perform them in some form of athletic stance to increase the time we spend on our feet and activate the stabilizer muscles.
Will hip abduction widen the 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 larger due to hypertrophy of the muscles on the side-back side of your body, but this does not mean that you have changed the structure of your hip bones.
How often should you do hip abduction?
This will depend on your training experience and goals. I recommend using them in your warm-up sessions instead of dedicating an entire training 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 highly for aesthetics and provide functional benefits and preventive measures against knee and hip pain.
Standing hip abduction exercises should be a staple of your exercise 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 injury and combats knee and hip pain, but also improves your posture, counteracting the threats posed by modern lifestyle habits. In the comments below, let me know how you implement standing hip abduction into your exercise routine.
Fitness Volt is committed to providing our readers with science-based information. We only use credible and peer-reviewed sources to support the information we share in our articles.
- Thomas DT, RS, Prabhakar AJ, Dineshbhai PV, Eapen C. Hip abductor strengthening in patients diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis – a systematic review and meta-analysis. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorder. 2022;23(1):622. Published June 29, 2022 doi:10.1186/s12891-022-05557-6
- Akhtar MV, Karimi H, Gilani SA. Effectiveness of core stabilization exercises and routine exercise therapy in pain management of chronic nonspecific 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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