Your abductors are actually a group of four different muscles -- the gluteus maximus, gluteus minimums, gluteus medius and tensor fascia lata. They are located around your buttocks and down the outside of your thighs and work together to lift your leg out to the side of your body. Building a balanced physique is crucial for succeeding in bodybuilding, as judges look not only at muscle size and definition, but symmetry and balance too. If your abductors are lagging behind the rest of your physique, it could jeopardize your bodybuilding aspirations.
The abductors are a prime example of a muscle group that many bodybuilders overlook, according to trainer and bodybuilder Lynn Glenn. They may look relatively small in comparison to your quads, but if you perform lots of squats, leg presses and leg extensions in your training, your quads can quickly overtake your abductors, leading to an unbalanced physique. Increasing your abductor size will make your legs look better overall.
Along with lifting your leg to the side, the abductors work to stabilize your hip joint. If they're weak and untrained, this could lead to hip injuries and discomfort. Many lifters have tight tensor fascia lata muscles and weak or under-active glutes, according to corrective exercise specialist Mike Robertson. Stronger abductors will stabilize your hips and reduce your chances of injury and can even increase your strength on compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts.
Robertson recommends band side steps, where you stand on a resistance bands, pull the ends up to your hips and step sideways so your foot moves against the band. Alternatively, many gyms have hip-abduction machines, on which you sit, place your knees inside a set of pads and abduct your legs out to the side. For an even simpler exercise, lie on your side and lift your leg up to the ceiling. You can use a resistance band or weak ankle weights if these become too easy.
Many compound exercises that may already be in your program, such as back squats and front squats and lunges and step-ups, work your abductors in conjunction with the bigger muscles in your legs. These exercises will also lead to more overall muscle growth as they hit more muscle fibers, so they should be the foundation of your program. If you do find your abductors are a weak point, add in one or two exercises at the end of each lower-body workout for three to four sets of 12 to 15 repetitions each.
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