Muscle of the Month – Hip abductors
In our latest blog in the Muscle of the Month series, we’re taking an in-depth look at the hip abductors.
The abductor muscle group creates movement and aids core stability. The abductors work in tandem with the inner thigh muscles (hip adductors).
Weak abductors can lead to reduced hip stability and, as a result, injury. Personal trainers and fitness instructors should programme exercises that work the abductors to help the all-round fitness and strength of the clients they are training.
The origination and insertion of the abductors
Found on the lateral side of the thigh, the abductor muscles originate at the pelvis and insert at the femur.
The primary hip abductors are:
- Gluteus medius – originates gluteal surface of the ilium; inserts greater trochanter
- Gluteus minimus – originates posterior surface of the ilium; inserts greater trochanter
- ITB / Tensor fasciae latae – originates iliac crest; inserts tibia
The secondary hip abductors are:
- Sartorius – originates anterior superior iliac spine; inserts tibia
- Piriformis – originates lower spine; inserts superior margin of the femur (see our blog on Muscle of the Month: Piriformis).
The action and basic functional movement of the abductors
Abductors create both movement and stability. Their key actions are:
- To move the thigh out away from the midline of the body
- To aid core stability, posture and balance
- To give the pelvis stability when walking, running, standing on one foot etc
Problems arising from weak abductors
The hip abductors can be weakened by under use and by remaining seated for extended periods, especially with crossed legs.
Weak abductors can cause friction to the knee, ankle and foot, pull bones out of alignment and heighten the risk of hip and lower leg pain or injury. They can also contribute towards the development of patellofemoral pain syndrome (PFPS – pain behind the kneecap) or iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS).
Strong abductors can also prevent or reduce knee valgus (knock knees).
Common exercises for the abductors
Exercises to work the abductors include:
- Side-lying or standing hip abduction
- Side plank
- Side or forward lunge
- Squats and one-legged squats
- Step ups
Most gyms will have a hip abduction machine and certain yoga poses can also strengthen the abductors. Weightlifters should work towards having strong abductors to increase their core stability and reduce the likelihood of injury when lifting weights.
Exercising the hip abductors can help you with everyday functional movements, such as getting out of bed or a car, standing, walking and rotating the leg. As well as promoting core stability, strong hip abductors can act as a barrier to hip and leg injuries.