Hip abduction exercise and leaner thighs go hand in hand.
In basic terms hip abduction means to take the leg away from the midline of the body, kick your leg straight out to the side, or to work the outer thigh. So, when you are doing hip abduction exercise it involves some form of moving the leg away from the body, usually with added resistance for strength.
The hip is a ball and socket joint, which means that you can move the leg in four directions; abduction (away from body), adduction (toward midline of body), flexion (bringing the leg up towards the torso), and extension (drawing the leg straight back behind the body).
Why is hip abduction exercise good for the hip joint and thighs?
Doing hip abduction exercise helps to strengthen and stretch the muscles that surround and protect the hip joint. As an added bonus, with the stretching and strengthening actions it pulls the muscles into longer and leaner lines.
These muscles include: gluteus medius and minimus, the piriformis (in the buttocks), the ilipsoas (in the groin), the tensor fasciae latae (upper lateral thigh), and the sartorius (runs from outside of lateral thigh into the medial side just below the kneecap).
Strengthening and stretching these muscles will help to stabilize the hip as well as to keep it flexible and working efficiently so we can move with ease. Most specifically, walk with ease and without pain.
What types of hip abduction exercise should I be doing?
There are many different ways to do hip abduction exercise. You can exercise in a side lying position, lying on your back, or standing. You can work most all of these hip abduction exercises using the resistance of water in a pool.
Some of my favorites are Pilates based exercises done on a mat or utilizing Pilates equipment if you have it available.
All exercises done lying on your side with your shoulders and hips stacked on top of each other and legs angled slightly forward at the waist.
· Small Circles With the top leg slightly forward of the bottom and at hip level circle the whole leg 6-8 times each direction. Keep the leg long and reaching through your heel. Think about reaching out of the hip to make it longer.
· Forward and Back Kicks With the torso and bottom leg staying stationary as an anchor swing the top leg forward and back at hip level keeping the leg long and straight. Swinging the leg forward flex your foot, swinging the leg behind you point your foot. Keep the shoulders aligned as you swing the leg straight behind you.
· Open the Clam Lying on your side with both knees bent out at a 90 degree angle, place your hand on the top hip and keep it aligned over the bottom hip. Squeeze your heels together and then draw your top knee away from the bottom knee. If you are aligned properly it should not open very far as with trying to open a very tight clam shell.
· Lying on your back with one leg extended along the mat anchored to the floor, the other leg extended up just under a 90 degree angle. Feel the thigh bone of the leg in the air set right in your hip socket and then circle it 8 times each direction.
Make the circles as large as you can control keeping your torso and leg on the floor very still. Shoulders and butt cheeks stay anchored into the floor as you circle.
Standing Hip Abduction Exercise:
· Standing with or without a weight around your ankles, kick one leg out to the side until you feel the outer thigh or hip stop you from going any farther without having to bend sideways. Make sure you stand with the spine extended as you kick to each side 10 times.