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Welcome to the third installment of the hip abductor series. In the first blog post, we looked at the structure and function of the hip abductors and potential causes of hip abductor weakness and dysfunction. In the second post, we learned ways to assess hip abductor weakness using quick and simple observational tests. Finally, let’s look at ways to strengthen the hip abductors.

For all exercises, do as many repetitions as needed to fatigue the gluteus minimus and medius, without compromising proper form in the exercise. If more intensity is needed, add a hold at the most difficult part of the exercise. In standing exercises, it is best to use a mirror, when possible, to ensure proper lower extremity alignment, paying particular attention to keeping the medial foot arch lifted and the knee properly aligned over the standing foot.

Pilates Exercises to Strengthen the Hip Abductors


1. Clamshells

2. Side Lying Hip Abduction

3. Side Kick

4. Side Lying Hip Circles

5. Side Kick Kneeling

Non-Pilates Exercises to Strengthen the Hip Abductors

  1. Single Leg Squat
  • Start in a single leg stance (preferably in front of a mirror for the client to maintain good form)
  • Slowly bend the standing knee to 45 degrees (or less, if there is knee pain) while maintaining a level pelvis and keeping the stance knee aligned over the middle toe
  • Slowly push through the standing leg to rise up to start position

Tip: Concentrating on using the glute of the standing leg helps to isolate the hip abductors and the gluteus maximus, and also decreases the pressure on the knee joint.

  1. Hip Drop on a Step
  • Stand on a small step with one leg on the step, the other just off of it
  • Slowly let the free-leg foot drop below the level of the step
  • Use the hip abductors on the stance leg to raise the free leg back to the start position
  1. Single Leg Deadlift
  • Start by standing on both legs
  • Hinge forward from the hips, reaching the right arm toward the floor and the right leg back
  • Slowly reverse the motion to come back up to standing


Tip: keeping the torso and free leg rigid in order to move them as a unit helps maintain balance over the stance leg and increases the work of the hip abductors on the stance leg.

If you have any other exercises or movements that work with your clients, or if you have any questions regarding this article, leave them in the question area below.

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