How to Do Side-Lying Hip Abductions

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Hip Abduction

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Targets: Glutes, tensor fasciae latae (stabilizes hip and knee)

Equipment Needed: Exercise mat

Level: Beginner

Often a forgotten set of muscles, the hip abductors are instrumental in common daily movements, like stepping sideways and standing up. Because many people spend much of their day seated at a desk, abductor weakness is a common ailment that can cause knee pain and muscle imbalances. 

Luckily, hip abduction is a simple movement that can be performed in a variety of ways with or without equipment, so it’s an easy exercise to incorporate into your regular lower-body strength routine. Strengthening abductors leads to better core stability, knee health, and athletic performance.

Benefits

Hip abduction works the muscles surrounding the hip: the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and tensor fasciae latae (TFL). These muscles both raise the leg laterally away from the body and turn the leg outward. These movements are important to be able to get out of bed, step into a car, or slide out of a restaurant booth. When these muscles aren’t used for a long period of time, they can become inactive, which forces the body to recruit other muscles to perform an activity. Over time, these muscle imbalances cause pain and improper posture. 

Hip abductions are a simple, effective way to strengthen glutes and core muscles. Performing abductions results in better stability while standing and walking, decreased risk of knee injuries, and a firmer core and backside.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Hip abductions can be done nearly anywhere. Because you don’t need bulky equipment, they’re easy to incorporate into your workout routine while traveling. 

  1. Lie down on your side on an exercise mat with legs extended and hips in a parallel line, one on top of the other.
  2. Bend your lower arm underneath your head, allowing the full weight of your head to rest on your forearm so it’s in line with your vertebrae. 
  3. Relax your feet into a neutral position, perpendicular to your legs. 
  4. Exhale while raising your upper leg to just above your hip joint. When you feel your hips and back start to tense, stop and hold the position for one to two seconds.
  5. Inhale and slowly lower your leg to its starting position, keeping it straight and stacked directly above the lower leg. 
  6. Repeat for a total set of 10 raises.
  7. Flip over to your opposite side and repeat the process with your other leg. 
  8. Continue alternating legs for three sets of 10 raises on each leg.

Common Mistakes

Even though the move may look straightforward, there are still a number of common mistakes to be mindful of.

Raising Too High

Remember to raise your leg to just above your hip for prime muscle engagement. When you raise your leg higher, the glutes and TFL are no longer isolated, and other muscles are engaged instead. Raise the leg until you feel tension in the hip—no further.

Going Too Fast

Due to the simplicity of this exercise, it can be tempting to complete it rapidly. Doing so, however, reduces the effectiveness of the movement and can cause poor form. Intentional movement builds better muscle endurance and prevents injury.

Leaning Forward or Backward

Side-lying exercises are challenging because they require constant focus on alignment, but doing so ensures you isolate the right muscles. In this exercise, focus on stacking your hips, which prevents you from leaning toward the ceiling or the floor. 

Straining the Neck

As you perform a hip abduction, concentrate on keeping your spine neutral. Raising your head puts unnecessary (and painful) strain on your neck. 

Modifications and Variations

If the side-lying hip abduction is too easy or too challenging for you, try one of these modifications.

Need a Modification?

There are several variations of the side-lying hip abduction, making it a great exercise to progress as your strength increases. Beginners can start with a smaller range of motion or fewer reps to decrease difficulty, then work their way up to a full set of extended raises. If this isolated move proves too difficult, work to increase overall glute and hip strength with a few glute activation exercises

Up for a Challenge?

Have you mastered the side-lying hip abduction? Challenge yourself by adding resistance bands or ankle weights to increase difficulty. Hip abductions can also be performed while standing, using a band or cable machine to add resistance. Other glute-activation options include lateral band walks and clam shells, both of which isolate the same gluteal muscles. 

Safety and Precautions

If you have back or hip injuries, talk to your doctor before performing this exercise. Side-lying hip abductions are safe for pregnant women to perform with medical clearance, and many mothers find the move relieves common hip pain often experienced during pregnancy. 

To prevent injury, focus on keeping a neutral spine, stacking your hips, and only performing the movement to the point of tension. If you experience pain beyond a slight pinching in the hip, stop the exercise and consult your doctor. 

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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