Essential Rider Fitness: Hip Abductor Strength
Your body’s hip abductors are made up of four major muscle groups: the Gluteus Maximus, Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus, and Tensor Fascia Lata muscles. This group of muscles is found in your buttocks region and is responsible for your body’s ability to separate its legs from the midline position.
** To paint a picture of the muscles’ function, imagine you’re standing straight with your legs together (like a toothpick). That’s your legs in the midline position. Now, when you widen your stance (think a split), your hip abductors are allowing you to achieve that result.
Why Are Hip Abductors Important For Motorcycle Riders
Hip abductors are very important in allowing you to control the lateral movement of your bike while standing. And we all know that the proper way to ride a dirt bike is to stand on it. (Just ask Gary Jones, 4-time AMA 250 National Champion.) Therefore, you need to have strong hip abductor muscles to better control your bike.
Also, abductors work with your lower back, and together they are crucial to maintaining stability when you’re plowing through whoops or a rocky section of trail. They need to be strong enough to be able to handle the constant jolts your body is receiving during that specific piece of the track or trail.
Strong hip abductors ultimately mean more control and stability during a race – two factors that equate to better runs and more wins. But there’s also one other important factor that often gets overlooked – avoiding injury. It’s no secret that our legs take a beating while riding. Stronger abductors mean lessening the risk of injury while we ride.
How To Increase Hip Strength
Like most other rider fitness & exercise programs, the best way to exercise and strengthen your hip abductors is to spend more time riding. However, that’s not always possible, and even then, it doesn’t hurt to throw some additional training in, just for good measure to avoid abductor strain.
Here are two exercises you can incorporate today (right now, even) to start strengthening your hip abductors:
Stand on an elevated surface (a bottom step, a footstool, etc.) with one leg on and one leg off.
Keeping your supporting leg (the leg on the step) straight, lower your other leg to the floor by dropping only your pelvis. Your body will naturally want to cheat during this motion. Be conscious of it and correct any mistakes.
Lower your leg (using only your pelvis) for 2 seconds. Hold it for 2 seconds, then raise it back up (again, using only your pelvis) for 2 seconds. Make sure you keep your supporting leg straight the entire time – no bending at the knee.
Number of sets and repetitions: 1-2 sets at 15-20 reps with each leg.
This is one of the best exercises for increasing the strength of your abductors, but it’s also one of the more difficult. Take your time, and work your way up to a traditional single-leg squat.
Start with your feet approximately shoulder-width apart.
Lift one of your legs out in front of your body (think “the Swan kick” from Karate Kid)
Now, dip down to at least a 90-degree angle, where your upper leg is parallel to the floor. You’ll eventually want to squat even lower than that, but don’t rush it.
Push yourself back up using only your leg that is currently supporting your weight. Remember to keep your other leg lifted throughout the entire duration of the exercise.
If this is too difficult for you in the beginning, find a surface to hold onto for support. (I.e., a table, desk, etc.)
Number of sets and repetitions: 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps on each leg
Perform both exercises above as part of your rider fitness program at least three times a week, and, in combination with your riding, you’ll be on your way to increase your hip abductor strength in no time.
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