You’ve prob heard the terms adduction and abduction thrown around at the gym or in at-home workout vids. They’re often lumped together because they both refer to body movement. And TBH, it doesn’t help that they’re only one letter apart. But it turns out these terms help explain two different — but equally important — types of muscles.
This is everything you need to know about adductor and abduction workouts, plus 10 exercises to help you strengthen both.
Here’s a helpful way to remember the difference between abduction and adduction.
- During abduction, your limbs are taken away from your body like they’re being abducted by aliens.
- During adduction, you’re adding those limbs back to your body after your valiant escape from E.T.’s spaceship.
Abduction uses a group of muscles called your abductors while adduction uses (yup, you guessed it) your adductor muscles.
Still not sure which is which? We gotchu. Lift your arm up so it’s straight out to your side. Congrats, you just did an abduction. Now lower it so it’s flat against your body. Nice adduction there, buddy!
Adductor exercises pros and cons
These useful workouts do have their potential downsides, however. According to a 2020 study, having asymmetrical adductor muscles can increase your risk of injury. This can happen when one side of the body gets worked out harder than the other. Think of a car with a flat tire — it’s not going to be a smooth ride.
Abduction exercises pros and cons
Abductor exercises play a big role in injury prevention and can benefit your overall mobility abilities. And like adduction exercises, abductor workouts also help stabilize your body. According to one study, this is particularly important for your lower limbs, but it’s good to give your arms some TLC too.
The older you get, the more noticeable these benefits become. Studies show abduction exercises can help you maintain balance as you age. Since falls become more common and more severe as years go by, maintaining healthy abductors can boost quality of life. Plus, it might reduce your risk of ever having to say, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!”
Just keep in mind that it’s important that you don’t over or underwork the abductors on either side of your body. If they’re out of balance, all those sweet stability skills could be lost.
Plenty of exercise moves work both abductors and adductors, but these ones stress the importance of bringing your limbs back toward your body. Give these five a try and see what they do for your balance, mobility, and strength.
An exercise routine and bootcamp favorite, pull-ups work your lats and biceps. Your deltoids, rhomboids, and core are going to play a supporting role if you’re doing it right.
To do pull-ups:
- Start out by gripping the bar so that your hands are at shoulder width, palms facing away from your body.
- Bend your knees so that your arms begin taking the weight.
- Engage your core and hold your shoulders back.
- Pull yourself up steadily until your chin peeks over the bar.
- Hold for a beat then lower yourself back to the start position.
- Beginners can aim for 5 reps but try to work toward 10 per set.
Pro tip: Form is vital for pull-ups. Keep things slow and controlled when you lower yourself back down to starting position.
2. Jumping jacks
Your calves, quads, and shoulders all get the benefit of a nice jumping jack session. It’s also a great cardio workout. You can easily work this into any routine.
To do a proper jumping jack:
- Begin standing with your legs together and arms down by your sides.
- Bend at your knees and jump.
- As you’re jumping upward, move your legs out to shoulder width and bring your arms up over your head.
- As soon as you land, jump up again and return your arms and legs to the start position.
- Try to do 10–25 reps per set.
Bonus: Jumping jacks are both an adduction and abduction exercise so you get *sings* the best of both worlds.
3. Copenhagen planks
It’s a plank but… more Copenhagen-y? You’ll need a bench for this variant, or a trustworthy workout partner to hold your upper leg. The move works your hip adductors, inner thigh, and groin muscles.
To do Copenhagen planks:
- Start out on the floor in a side plank position.
- Turn to the side so that the right side of your body faces the floor and the left side is facing up.
- Place your right forearm on the floor to support your weight.
- Place your left leg on the top of a bench or get a partner to hold it.
- Engage your core as your raise your body and lower right leg to meet the left.
- Hold for 10 seconds.
- Slowly lower your body back to the floor.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Aim for 5 reps and 3 sets.
4. Standing hip adduction
This one calls for a resistance band or cable. It works your thighs, abs, and butt if your form is spot on. Here’s how to master the standing hip adduction:
- Place the cable or resistance band at the base of your right shin, just above your ankle.
- Step outward until the band is under tension and bend your left knee slightly.
- Keeping your back straight, bring your right foot inward, toward your body’s centerline.
- Once your right foot is aligned in front of your left, you should feel maximum resistance from the band.
- Hold for a beat before steadily returning your right foot to the start position.
- Aim for 10 reps on each foot.
5. Single-leg lateral lunges
No equipment is needed for the lateral lunge, but it’s a beast of a motion that works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, and thigh adductors. Here’s how you get started:
- Begin standing with your feet shoulder-width apart.
- Step your left leg way out to the side.
- Bend your left knee and draw your hips back.
- When your left leg lands, make sure it’s bent at 90 degrees.
- Hold for a beat before pushing back to the start position.
- Repeat 10 times before doing 10 using your right leg.
Put those limbs in motion with these five moves that build explosive power while upping stability and mobility. Some have the option of bringing in equipment for extra effectiveness, but be sure to master the basics first. Remember, it’s all about balance.
Clamshells aren’t simply a top workout for your glutes and hip abductors, they’re also hella versatile. You can introduce weights or a resistance band to spice things up if they get too easy for you. In the meantime, here’s how to nail the basic form.
To do a clamshell:
- Start lying on your side, legs atop one another, knees bent at 45 degrees.
- Your lower arm should be supporting your head while your upper arm grips your upper thigh to steady your body.
- Align your hips on top of each other and engage your core as you raise your top knee. Keep both feet together as your top knee moves up.
- Keep your lower leg against the floor and your hips steady as your top knee reaches its full stretch.
- Hold for a beat, then return to the start position.
- Aim for 20 reps with each leg.
2. Lateral squat walks
Here’s another good one for the abductor muscles in your hips and butt.
To do lateral squat walks:
- Start out in a half-squat with your thighs parallel to the ground.
- Steadily extend your arms out in front of your body to balance.
- Leading with your left leg, step to one side while trying not to lift your hips or body.
- Let your right leg follow your left, again keeping your body at the same height.
- Aim for 10 steps in either direction.
Pro tip: You can add a resistance band around your knees for extra oomph if needed.
3. Fire hydrants
Fire hydrants spoil your hip abductors and glutes in the best way possible. The fire hydrant is a great alternative to the lateral squat walk if you’re still working on the strength for perfect form.
To do fire hydrants:
- Get on your hands and knees. Your shoulders should align above your hands with your hips above your knees.
- Engage your core with your head in a neutral position facing down.
- Lift one leg ’til it’s at 45 degrees from its starting position, but keep your knee bent at 90 degrees.
- Hold for a few seconds before steadily lowering the leg back to the floor.
- Repeat for 10 reps on each leg.
Pro tip: Make sure you maintain control as you lower your leg back down to the floor. Don’t just let it drop.
4. Side plank with leg lifts
A plank variant that targets the shoulders, arm, obliques, and hip abductors, throwing in a leg lift makes this an intermediate, albeit very effective, option for your routine.
To do side plank with leg lifts:
- Get into a side plank position with the lower arm supporting the body.
- Engage your core and extend your right arm into the air as you turn your body so that your right foot rests on the left.
- Lift your right leg up in the air so it’s aligned with your hip.
- Hold for 30 seconds before steadily lowering your leg back down.
- Repeat on your other side.
- Aim for 5 reps with each leg.
Pro tip: Place your knee on the ground for extra support.
5. Lateral dumbbell raises
A solid pick for working your traps and delts, this simple strength training move can use common, heavy-ish household items instead of weights if you don’t have any.
To do a lateral dumbbell raise:
- Stand with a weight in each hand, down by your sides.
- Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your back straight and engage your core.
- In a smooth, controlled motion, steadily bring the weights up until your arms are straight out to either side.
- Hold for a beat before steadily returning to the start position.
- Repeat for 10 reps.
Abduction workouts are when you move your limbs away from your body. Adduction exercises are when you bring your limbs back toward your body. Both are equally important and help your body stay mobile, balanced, and stable.
Your abductor and adductor muscles are vital in just about every movement you make. That’s why it’s 10/10 important to keep your workouts balanced. Opt for a regular workout routine that develops each type of muscle in harmony. The benefits can last a lifetime!