The sidelying hip abduction exercise is one of my favorite exercises for working the lateral hip muscles, specifically the gluteus medius. I believe this exercise is often looked at as a beginner exercise that is quickly transitioned into more ‘functional’ closed kinetic chain exercises.
However, if loaded and progressed properly, I believe this exercise could be a weekly staple into a well-rounded exercise program.
In this article I’m going to dive into several ways to modify/progress the sidelying hip abduction exercise.
Note: Many of the studies referenced in this post are EMG studies. Most of them are open access and I encourage you to read the full texts to glean more information. As with any EMG study, differences in subject population, method of testing MVIC, and manner in which EMG data was collected (surface electrodes, fine-wire) make it difficult to make comparisons between studies.
Sidelying Hip Abduction
The exercise, in itself, can be a great progression from sidelying clamshells (which is a different exercise; not necessarily a regression). If loaded adequately, as in a rep range that fatigues you generally in the 8-15 rep range, this can really get those lateral hip muscles working in a way you won’t feet during squats, deadlifts, lunges, running, etc.
This exercise has been demonstrated to elicit anywhere from 42% (Bolgla, 2005) to 81% (Distenfano, 2009) of one’s maximal voluntary isometric contraction (MVIC) for the gluteus medius.
Sidelying Hip Abduction with 15 Degrees of Hip Internal Rotation
This variation has been demonstrated to elicit 65.8% of one’s peak MVIC for the gluteus medius. Additionally, this variation demonstrated the lowest ratio (when compared to other variations of this exercise) of iliopsoas:gluteus medius activation which may be advantageous following certain hip surgeries or with a patient with hip flexor irritation (Philippon, 2011).
Sidelying Hip Abduction with 15 Degrees of Hip External Rotation
This variation elicited 55.4% of peak MVIC of the gluteus medius and a great deal more iliopsoas activation compared to the before mentioned IR variation (Philippon, 2011).. The is often the posture our bodies (myself definitely included) take when we get fatigued to utilize more anterior hip muscles to help with the exercise.
Sidelying Hip Abduction with Hip Extension Against Wall
This is a great way to elicit high (58.1% MVIC) gluteus medius activation while also putting greater emphasis on the hip extensors such as the gluteus maximus, more posterior fibers of the gluteus medius, and hamstrings (Philippon, 2011).
In this video, I am attempting to continually push my heel against the wall (hip extension) as I move through hip abduction.
Sidelying Plank with Hip Abduction
This is tough. I didn’t want to show off too much so I took off the 5 pound ankle weights for this demo…
This is a great exercise for both the top and bottom leg. This exercise has been demonstrated to elicit 103% MVIC of the gluteus medius for the bottom leg and 89% MVIC for the top leg.
Note: Obviously, if a value is over 100% for the MVIC, it just means that this exercise elicited a greater EMG signal, for that muscle, than the test used for comparisons.
Sidelying Plank, on Extended Arm, with Hip Abduction
I don’t know of any EMG studies on this one. I would expect that it would actually be less glute med MVIC due to more ‘moving parts’ and being potentially more limited by core/shoulder stabilization.
But this is tough.
What are some variations of sidelying hip abduction that you like to utilize with your patients/clients or within your own strength and conditioning programs.
- Bolgla, L. A., & Uhl, T. L. (2005). Electromyographic analysis of hip rehabilitation exercises in a group of healthy subjects. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 35(8), 487-494.
Boren, K., Conrey, C., Le Coguic, J., Paprocki, L., Voight, M., & Robinson, T. K. (2011). Electromyographic analysis of gluteus medius and gluteus maximus during rehabilitation exercises. International journal of sports physical therapy, 6(3).
Distefano, L. J., Blackburn, J. T., Marshall, S. W., & Padua, D. A. (2009). Gluteal muscle activation during common therapeutic exercises. journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy, 39(7), 532-540.
Philippon, M. J., Decker, M. J., Giphart, J. E., Torry, M. R., Wahoff, M. S., & LaPrade, R. F. (2011). Rehabilitation exercise progression for the gluteus medius muscle with consideration for iliopsoas tendinitis: an in vivo electromyography study. The American journal of sports medicine, 39(8), 1777-1786.