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Abduction Vs. Adduction: You’ll Get a Better Workout If You Know the Difference


Abduction Vs. Adduction: You’ll Get a Better Workout If You Know the Difference
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If you’re new to working out, the vast array of complicated-sounding terms can be super overwhelming. What’s a rep? A set? And what on earth is abduction? When it comes to fitness, there are a lot of terms thrown around that can be confusing for the average person.

Before you throw in the towel and give up on getting fit altogether, let’s tackle one of these confusing terms: abduction vs. adduction.

What's the difference between the two?

It’s actually not as complicated as it sounds, and once you know the difference, you can make sure you’re performing the exercises correctly to get the most out of your workout.

Abduction Vs Adduction

Abduction refers to movement away from the midline of the body. For example, when you lift your arms out to the side, you are performing an abduction movement.

Adduction, on the other hand, refers to movement towards the midline of the body. An example of this would be bringing your arms back down to your sides after performing an abduction movement.

Now that we've cleared that up, let's talk about why it's important to know the difference between these two.


Hip and shoulder abduction are frequently mentioned when it comes to fitness and workouts. But what exactly are they? And why are they so important?

Simply put, abduction is the movement of a body part away from the midline of the body. So, when we abduct our hips, we're moving our legs out to the side. And when we abduct our shoulders, we're moving our arms out to the side.

Abduction is a key movement in many everyday activities, such as reaching for something overhead or walking up stairs. It's also essential for many sports movements, like serving a tennis ball or hitting a baseball.

Strong abductors (outer thigh muscles) are necessary for healthy abduction. The main muscle groups involved in hip abduction are the glutes and the abductors. The main muscle group involved in shoulder abduction is the deltoid.

If you have weak muscles, you can experience pain when you try to abduct your hip or shoulder. You may also struggle with everyday activities or participating in your favorite sports.

Good news is there are multiple ways to strengthen the muscles responsible for abduction. Pilates and yoga are two great options. Or you can try some simple exercises at home, such as side leg raises or arm circles. Talk to your doctor or physical therapist about what exercises would be best for you.


Adduction is a movement that brings a body part towards the body’s midline. In the shoulder, adduction occurs when the arm is brought across the chest, while hip adduction occurs when the leg is brought towards the body's midline.

When you bring your arm across your chest, you are performing adduction of the shoulder. Adduction is an important movement for both the hip and shoulder. It allows us to move our limbs close to our bodies, which is necessary for many activities such as walking, running, and climbing.

The main muscles involved are adductors or inner thigh muscles.

As we age, our ability to perform adduction decreases. This can lead to problems with balance and mobility. Adductor strengthening exercises can help combat this problem and maintain our ability to move our limbs close to our bodies.

Benefits of Abduction and Adduction Movements

Here are the most notable benefits of abduction and adduction:

Boost Balance

Abduction and adduction exercises are a great way to improve your balance. By working the muscles that support your hips and thighs, you can help stabilize your pelvis and trunk. In turn, this will improve stability and prevent falls and injuries. Abduction exercises (as well as adduction) can also help improve your posture and alignment.

Abduction and adduction movements support a straight and strong back, by strengthening the muscles surrounding your spine.

Also, they can increase your range of motion, making it easier to perform everyday tasks. Whether you want to improve your balance or reduce your risk of injury, these exercises are a great place to start.

Improve Functional Strength and Stability

The abductors are placed on your hip's side (outer), and their primary function is to move your leg out to the side and adductors are your inner thigh muscles responsible for bringing the leg back in.

However, these muscles are also important for stabilizing your hip joint and keeping your pelvis level when you walk or run.

Additionally, strong abductors or, simply say, thigh muscles can help prevent injuries such as hip dislocation and groin strains. So, including some abduction and adduction exercises brings in numerous benefits.

Support Mobility

Anyone who has ever broken a bone knows how precious the ability to move our limbs is. It allows us to perform everyday tasks, such as walking, eating, brushing our teeth, and even turning in our sleep.

It also enables us to pursue more strenuous activities, such as running, cycling, and swimming. Without this ability, we would be just a big blob of bones and flesh .

Therefore, it is no surprise that the muscles responsible for moving our limbs are some of the most important muscles in our bodies.

The muscles that allow us to abduct our limbs (move them away from our bodies) or adduct them (move towards our bodies) are particularly important for achieving and maintaining an upright posture. They maintain our balance and prevent us from toppling over.

Not just that, these muscles let us reach out and grab objects, which is essential for fine motor tasks such as writing or using a fork. In short, our abductors and adductors allow and support mobility with perfect posture and stability.

In bold words: no abductors/adductors, no mobility at all.

Abduction and Adduction Exercises

Abductors and adductors, being muscles just like any other muscle group, can really benefit from being engaged and worked on. They'll grow stronger and, with them, will improve all the functions they support, not to forget the fine-toned shape of the lower body.

It's hard to strictly differentiate between abduction and adduction exercises because every time you move your limbs away, you must bring them back too, so it involves both abduction and adduction. However, we have tried our best to collect a few for both categories for clarity purposes.

Abduction Exercises

Here are some essential abduction movements:

1. Clamshell

The Clamshell is an abductor exercise that strengthens and tones the hip and thigh muscles.

You will need a resistance band and stability ball to do the Clamshell.

  • Begin by lying on your side with legs on top of eachother. Place the resistance band around your thighs, slightly above your knees.
  • Slowly lift your right knee up while keeping the feet joint. Hold for a few seconds before slowly lowering your leg back down.
  • Repeat with your left leg.
  • Do 10-15 repetitions on each side.

2. Lateral Leg Raise

Lateral leg raises work both the abductor and adductor muscle groups in your hips. These muscles help move your legs to the side (abduction) and bring them back together again (adduction).

  • Lie on your side with your legs spread out.
  • Place the hand of the upper leg in front of you on the floor for stability. Keeping your abdominal muscles pulled in and back straight, raise your upper leg as high as possible without moving your pelvis or lower back.
  • Pause and return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions, switch sides, and repeat with the other leg.

You can add resistance by holding a dumbbell or weighted plate in your hand to make this exercise more challenging. You can also increase the range of motion by starting with your leg slightly bent at the knee and raising it as high as possible.

3. Lateral Squat Walk

Lateral squat walks are a great way to work your hip abductors and adductors and strengthen as well as tone these essential muscles in return.

  • Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Take a large step to the side with your left leg and lower your body into a squat position.
  • Make sure your knee doesn't go past your toes as you lower down.
  • From here, stand back up and repeat on the other side.
  • Do 3 sets of 10 reps on each side.

4. Lateral Dumbbell Raises

Lateral weighted raises work your shoulders and arm muscles along with your core and improve strength and stability with their unique movement pattern.

To perform lateral dumbbell raises:

  • Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your thighs.
  • Keeping your back straight and core engaged, raise your arms out to the sides until they are parallel with the ground.
  • Slowly lower your arms back down to the starting position.
  • Repeat as many times as you like.

5. Fire Hydrant

Fire hydrants are amazing for hip abductors, which are important for stabilizing the hip joint and helping it move correctly.

  • To perform a fire hydrant, start in an all-fours position with your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders.
  • From here, lift your left leg up to the side, keeping your knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • Hold the movement for a few seconds before lowering back down to starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

Adductor Exercises

Here are some amazing ways to work on your adductors:

1. Pull-Ups

The adductors are an important group of muscles for many activities, such as walking, running, and climbing. Strong adductor muscles can help prevent injuries to the knees and hips.

Therefore, it is important to include exercises that target these muscles in your workout routine. Pull-ups are a great way to strengthen the shoulder adductors.

  • To perform a pull-up, grip the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart.
  • Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar.
  • Lower yourself back down.
  • Repeat.

2. Jumping Jacks

Jumping jacks are a great way to work the adductors. The best part is you get to engage most muscle groups in adduction movement in both upper as well as lower body.

  • Start by standing with your feet together and your hands at your sides.
  • Next, jump up and spread your legs out to the sides while raising your arms above your head.
  • Return to the starting position in a reverse jump fashion.
  • Repeat.

3. Copenhagen Planks

The Copenhagen Plank is a great way to strengthen your adductors, which are the muscles that run along the inside of your thighs. Strong adductors will help you move more efficiently and prevent groin injuries.

  • To do the exercise, start in a side plank position with one leg bent at 90 degrees on-top of an elevated object.
  • Your other leg will be underneath the object supported on the ground.
  • Press off both legs and come into a side plank.
  • Keep your core engaged and breathe evenly as you hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute.
  • After holding the plank for 30 seconds to one minute, switch sides and repeat the exercise on the other side.

4. Standing Hip Adduction

Standing hip abduction/adduction targets the gluteus medius and minimus, which are responsible for stabilizing the hip joint. In addition, the abductor muscles of the thigh (including the gluteus medius) are engaged to lift the leg out to the side.

As a result, standing hip abduction can help strengthen and tone these important muscle groups. Additionally, this move also recruits supportive muscles in the core and lower back, making it an excellent choice for those looking to improve their overall strength and stability.

  • Begin by standing with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  • Next, lift your left leg and draw it across your body until it is in line with your right leg.
  • Be sure to keep your pelvis level and your core engaged as you do this.
  • Hold for a few seconds before returning to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side.

You can also try this exercise while holding a light dumbbell in each hand to add some resistance. Once you have mastered the basic movement, you can increase the range of motion by lifting your leg higher or lower.

Remember to focus on quality over quantity as you perform this exercise. A few well-executed reps are better than a large number of poorly executed ones.

5. Single-Leg Lateral Lunge

The single-leg lateral lunge is a great exercise for targeting the hip adductors. By doing this exercise regularly, you can really improve your hip mobility and strengthen the muscles that support your joints.

  • To do a single-leg lateral lunge, start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
  • Lift your right foot off the ground and step out to the side.
  • Lower your body down into a lunge position, keeping your left leg straight and your right knee bent at 90 degrees.
  • Return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

6. Side-Lying Inner Thigh Lifts

The side-lying inner thigh lift is a great exercise for toning and strengthening the adductors, otherwise known as the inner thigh muscles.

  • To perform side-lying inner thigh lifts, start by lying on your side with both legs straight almost like a side plank position.
  • Place your hand on the floor in front of you for support.
  • Bend your top leg and place your foot flat on the floor in front of you.
  • Keep your bottom leg straight, slowly lift it up as high as possible.
  • Squeeze your adductor muscles at the top of the lift and hold for a count of two.
  • Slowly lower your leg back down to the starting position and repeat.
  • Complete two sets of 10-12 repetitions before switching sides.

Pros and Cons of Abduction and Adduction Exercises

As mentioned above, abduction/adduction exercises strengthen abductors and adductors, which support mobility. So, the pros are pretty much obvious here:


  • Mobility
  • Strength
  • Stability
  • And flexibility

These exercises are a great way to improve flexibility and prevent stiffness. They strengthen the muscles around your hips and thighs, which translates into improved balance and stability.

In addition, abduction and adduction exercises can help ease pain in the lower back and hips (because they engage and strengthen all of the muscles in the surroundings like glutes, hams, and quads), and that makes them an ideal choice for those who want to maintain their mobility and improve their overall level of fitness.


You may think they are awesome in every possible way (and they are actually). Still, you may want to consider a few things before starting a plan focusing on abduction or adduction exercises.

First, abduction exercises can sometimes put unnecessary stress on the knees, which can lead to joint pain or other problems.

Second, if not done correctly, these exercises can actually weaken the muscles around the hips rather than strengthen them.

Thirdly, abduction exercises can sometimes cause irritation to the skin around the hips or groin area.

Finally, these exercises can worsen your existing joint pains in some cases. People with joint pains need to consult their physician before adopting any workout plan.

Overall, abduction exercises can be a helpful tool for improving leg strength and stability, but it is important to be aware of the potential risks.


1. How to remember the difference between adduction and abduction?

Once you know the anatomy of your abductors and adductors, it'll be crystal clear what these movements are, but still, here is our favorite formula to remember what's what!

Abduction and adduction simply refer to moving your limbs away or towards your body; it's this simple. Abduction comes from "abduct," which refers to moving away from the body, while adduction comes from "add," which refers to bringing limbs back to the body.

With this simple formula, you can never get it wrong! Next time you hear a gym pro using these terms, you don't have to act like you know it; YOU'LL KNOW IT!

2. What is adduction and abduction of the hip?

The human hip is a ball-and-socket joint that allows for a wide range of motion. The bones of the hip are held together by a network of ligaments, tendons, and muscles. These structures work together to allow the hip to move in multiple directions.

The two primary movements of the hip are adduction and abduction. During adduction, the thigh bone moves inward toward the midline of the body. This movement is used when walking or sitting down.

Abduction occurs when the thigh bone moves outward away from the midline of the body. This movement is used when climbing stairs or spreading your legs apart. The muscles that control these motions are located in the buttocks and thighs. Strong muscles are essential for maintaining proper hip function and preventing injuries.

3. What is adduction? Explain with an example.

Adduction is to bring a part of the body back towards the midline.


If a person has their arms straight out at the shoulders and brings them down to their sides, it is adduction. For fingers or toes, adduction brings the digits toward the center of the hand or foot. For example, if a person has their fingers spread wide apart, bringing them together would be adduction.


No matter what kind of workout you're doing, be sure to include both abduction and adduction movements. By incorporating a healthy mix of both kinds of exercises into your routine, you'll help keep your muscles balanced and prevent injury.

So next time you're at the gym, think about adding some lateral raises or deadlifts into your workout! Your muscles (and whoever happens to be checking you out at the gym) will thank you.

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