Exercise of the month: lying leg raise

The lying leg raise is a hip-abduction exercise. Hip abduction occurs when the leg moves out to the side of the body, and contributes to the strength, stability and proper alignment of the hip.

Muscles worked include the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and to a lesser extent, the tensor fasciae latae. The gluteus medius is activated with abduction and when the hip is rotated.

The gluteus minimus is a smaller muscle, located underneath the gluteus medius. Its primary functions are to abduct the leg and allow the hip to rotate internally. An example of internal rotation of the hip is to straighten the leg and turn the foot inward, while with external rotation the foot would move outward.

The tensor fasciae latae helps with abduction, and with flexion. Hip flexion occurs when the leg is raised to the front, such as when running, walking or climbing stairs.

Starting position: Lie comfortably on your right side with legs straightened. To help keep balance, lightly touch the floor with one hand.

Lifting/strengthening phase: Slowly raise the left leg until you have reached a full range of motion. Pause briefly, and slowly return to starting position.

Repeat with other leg.


There are many ways to strengthen the muscles involved in hip abduction.

Clamshell: This exercise (not shown) involves lying on the side with knees bent, one foot on top of the other. Slowly lift the knee upward until a comfortable full range of motion is achieved. Pause and slowly lower.

Side stepping: Place a resistance (loop) band at the ankles, and slowly abduct the right leg to a comfortable range of motion. Keep the foot planted, and bring the left leg toward the right. Take slow, deliberate steps, starting with 10 reps to each side, or to fatigue.

Abduction can also be accomplished by standing in place rather than walking, and with or without using a resistance band. Side-stepping can also be performed on a treadmill using a slow pace (less than 1 mph). In this case, you would face the side of the treadmill instead of facing front and practice abducting the leg as you step. For safety, hold on to the rails if balance is an issue.


The frequency and number of sets and repetitions vary according to goals and current strength. Beginners can typically start with one or two sets to mild fatigue two to three times weekly, and increase repetitions and/or sets as strength improves.

For strength balance, include other leg exercises such as squats or lunges into your routine.

Not all exercises are right for everyone. If you have medical conditions, pre-existing injuries or are unaccustomed to exercise, consult with your physician before starting a new exercise program.