Havings strong hip muscles, or abductors, can help prevent activity-related injuries. Week hips, or abductors, can also lead to issues such as IT band syndrome and patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS). If you are a runner you might have heard the term IT band. PFPS can cause pain behind the kneecap when sitting for too long, or when going down the stairs. These are injuries that at the least are uncomfortable and at the most prevents us from training for a long time.
You may have read some of my other posts where pain or injury is not always caused by what we think, the obvious, but instead by having muscle imbalances, or weaknesses. As you can see from the above, here we have again a set of muscles that if weak can cause us discomfort/injury somewhere else on our body.
Abductors are the muscles responsible for moving your leg away from your body, to the side. Getting out of the car, stepping to the side are common activities that use the abductors. Having strong abductors also helps aid in balance and stronger athletic performance.
Are you sitting for many hours throughout the day? Dealing with a lot of inactivity? It may be time then to work on building the abductors. When we stop using muscles, the body will in a sense deactivate those muscles. Instead, the body will recruit other muscles to do the work. This can lead to pain, poor performance, and having trouble executing certain movements.
Alright, let’s look at some exercises we can do to strengthen our abductors
Leg lifts on the side: Go get your mat or find a comfortable spot you can lay down on your side, legs stacked. Keep your head comfortable and have your upper hand on the floor in front of you to keep yourself on your side not leaning forward or backward. Now, with both legs straight, lift the upper leg all the way up to higher than your hip until you feel your hip flex and hold for 3 seconds. Now, lower your leg down but not all the way. Hold your leg above your other leg to where the tension just starts to lessen. Do this nice and slow. Lowering the leg should be done on a count of 3. Do this for 10 repetitions then repeat on the other side. Try to do 3 sets to start with.
Side Stepping: Do you have exercise bands? If so then this one’s for you. Grab a small band and place it around your ankles just above that bone that sticks out to the side. Keeping your feet under your hips, squat down to a seating or semi-setting position (if you can get yourself to the seating position then that’s where you need to be). Now, step to the side pushing with your heel against the band. Keep the band tight so it provides a fair amount of resistance. Feel the hip doing this work. Now, bring the other foot over so you are again positioned with your feet under your hips. Do this for 10 – 15 steps then return to your starting position by going back the other way.
Do you find this too easy? Get a resistance band that offers more resistance.
The Fire Hydrant: Don’t worry, you don’t need to use an actual fire hydrant for this exercise. You’ll see why this is called the fire hydrant. Get yourself on all fours, elbows locked out, knees under your hips, and head level looking at the ground below you. Now, using either the left or right leg, keeping the leg bent at 90 degrees, raise up the leg up to the side as high as it will go, and hold for 3 seconds. Yes, you should resemble a dog doing his business at a fire hydrant. Bring the leg back to the starting position. Do this movement slow and steady holding at the top for 3 seconds. 10 – 15 per side for 3 sets.
It’s always good to isolate muscles that are not used extensively. Most of us have strong pecs, shoulder fronts, quads but suffer from weaker neglected muscles such as abductors. If you practice martial arts then you’ll enjoy the benefits of having strong hips. Everything is about the hips. Who knows, maybe if after 8 weeks of working your abductors you’ll notice better performance, or no longer having that nagging pain in your IT band.
Enjoy these exercises and I’ll probably post some advanced hip flexor exercises in the weeks to come.
Yours in health,