Hip Abduction Machines are Useless, but you can Still Make a Great Butt
Unless you’re into watching or making fitness fetish porn, you might want to stay away from the hip abduction machine at the gym. While you’re abductors are certainly important, there are far better ways to train them. And as a bonus, you can do so in ways that are closer to what you might actually do in a sports/real life situation. Also, does fitness fetish porn actually exist? Asking for a friend.
Briefly, a few different muscles abduct the hip. Collectively, I call them the side butt. Technically, they are the Gluteus Minimus, Gluteus Medius, Sartorius, and the Tensor Fasciae Latae. The Gluteus Maximus helps too.
In short, these abductors help in abducting your hip, or raising it away from you as well as rotating your hip. What does this mean to you? They help you walk, side step, and keep you stable. If you ever see someone walking who has a dip in their hip that subsequently fucks up their gait, it’s likely due to weak abductors.
So how do we train these things without the dopey hip abduction machine? I’m glad you asked.
Four exercises to do instead of the hip abduction machine
1. Lateral Band Walks
I like these a lot. They’re versatile, and they really help you activate the hip abductors, via the hip abduction and the external rotation involved. And you get to move around while doing them. To perform, put the band at your knees. You can also put it midway between your feet and knees, or all the way down at your ankles. Experiment with this and find what works best for you.
Spread your feet, and side step. Take care to keep the tension on the band. And, push the ground with the planted leg.
For practice, pick a short distance, and walk.
2. Side Lying Clam Raise
This is a body weight movement, and the form is pretty simple. Make sure you’re on a soft surface. Bend your knees at about 90 degrees and your hips, too.
Press the bottom leg down into the surface to push yourself up, as you raise the other leg away from you. Note the Glute Guy’s left foot: he’s on the ball of the foot. To quote the man himself:
Here’s why I like it so much. The side-lying clamshell exercise is incredibly easy. Sure, the point of “low-load glute activation” is to use low loads and focus on quality contractions, but this is more of a hip-strengthening exercise. I can only do 10 reps with these right now and my glutes are screaming. In the past I’ve needed bands to challenge the glutes from this direction…but now I finally have a bodyweight exercise that can be performed anywhere for glute strengthening in this movement pattern. You can bust these out when watching tv or staying at a hotel and require bodyweight workouts, and for more advanced athletes they’d serve well in the dynamic warm-up.
3. Bulgarian Split Squat
One of my favorites, and a good go to if you have a fuck load of injuries, imbalances, and other problems. The hip abductors aren’t the prime movers here. But, they work the side butt by keeping you stable.
To perform, put the top of your foot down on the bench as shown above left. Push your butt back and squat down as low as you safely can. For real. If you are too wobbly, don’t try to go so low. You’ll get there. As in other squats, keep the weight on your heels.
You an also experiment with different types of loading. Pictured, you have it loaded symmetrically on both sides. You can also hold a dumbbell or kettlebell goblet squat style and try it. Last, you can hold a weight in just one hand. Experiment to try and find the best fit for you that day.
In my opinion, the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year. And the step-up is an underrated exercise. It moves the hip through a large range of motion, it works the quadriceps, and the glutes out as well. Like the Bulgarian Split Squat, it also uses your Glute Medius for stability.
To perform, stand in front of a thing you can step on. A wooden box. A bench. The backs of your constituency, if you are Frank Underwood. Push down with the stepping foot and stand to full extension. If you find yourself bringing the other foot to catch you as you stand before reaching hip extension, lessen the distance, or take away some weight. And like the Bulgarian, you can load it the same way depending on your preference and what feels nice.
If you want to do something else besides going to the gym all the time, try roller skating or playing roller derby. The sport itself involves all kinds of large hip movements. Not only that, it will improve your hand and eye coordination, and you will be a part of a team.
So there you have it. You can say goodbye to the S&M sex machine at your gym (and move it into your home, if that’s your thing). Not only will these exercises help you build a butt that looks nice, but it will actually be functional. Since, like my coach Frankie says, your function is to move. Why not do it well?
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