A common improper movement pattern observed during a squat is knee valgus (knees caving inward). This is typically the result of strong hip adductor muscles (located on the inner thigh) overpowering the weak hip abductors (gluteus minimus and gluteus medius). One way to improve this deviation is by incorporating corrective exercises that target the hip abductor muscles. This video will provide you with three different exercises to strengthen the hip abductors but it should be noted that there are numerous other possibilities.
Squatted Hip Abduction:
- This exercise begins in a squatted position with the feet hip-width apart with a circle (mini) band around the upper leg, slightly above knee level. The static squat is maintained throughout the exercise. With the feet facing forward and parallel to each other, the movement begins with slight hip abduction where the right knee moves slightly to the outside 1-2 inches. Return the knee to the start position and perform the same movement with the left knee. The participant keeps alternating until the desired number of repetitions has been performed on each leg.
- Safety tip: Ensure that the only moving part is the knee. At times, the body wants to compensate and utilize other muscles to assist with the movement. This results in a lateral shift of the hips. To prevent this from happening, perform this exercise in front of a mirror.
Plank with Hip Abduction:
- Begin this exercise in a forearm plank position with a circle band around the ankles. This position is maintained throughout the entire exercise. Create tension on the band by placing the feet shoulder-width apart and exactly perpendicular to the floor. Step to the side approximately 6-12 inches with one leg. Lightly tap the floor with the toe and return to the starting position. The same movement is performed on the other leg. The exercise continues until the desired number of repetitions has been performed.
- Safety tip: Though the incorporation of the core musculature is an added benefit of this exercise, one must ensure that the participant has adequate core strength to maintain a proper plank in order to correctly perform it (no excessive sag or pike of the hips; no rounding of the shoulders).
The “Abductor Dance”:
- This exercise is a sequence of movements. Begin in a “soft stance” (hips and knees slightly bent) with a circle band around the ankles. Place the feet approximately shoulder-width apart to create tension on the circle band. Leading with the right leg, step forward on a diagonal (forward and to the side). Allow the left leg to follow but keep tension on the band. Next, step laterally with the left leg, allowing the right leg to follow. Step backward and on a diagonal with the right leg, allowing the left leg to follow. Last, with the left leg step laterally with the right leg following. This has created an “X” pattern. Perform this same sequence with the opposite leg leading.
- Tip: Be sure to keep tension on the circle band by not bringing the feet completely during each movement in the pattern.
As mentioned previously, these are just a few of a long list of possible ways to strengthen the hip abductors. If you would like to learn more or how to correct other biomechanical misalignments, join us for the “Corrective Exercises” course at the Cooper Institute.