The Effectiveness of a Hip Abduction and Adduction Exercise Machine

Woman measuring her thigh with a measuring tape

The hip adduction and abduction machines are two of the most controversial strength training machines you’ll find at the gym. While they’re meant to strengthen the muscles in your inner and outer thighs, some people believe they are time-wasters and that your hip muscles would be better strengthened by other, more effective exercises.

Machines Explained

The adduction and abduction machines look very similar on first glance. With both machines, you seat yourself and put your legs next to padded levers. For the hip adduction machine, you press against them as you squeeze your legs together. The opposite happens with the abduction machine, where your legs are on the inside of the pads and you press against them as you move your legs away from each other.

Muscles Worked

The adductor machine primarily targets your three adductor muscles: the adductor brevis, longus and magnus. It also activates your gracilis in your inner thighs and your pectineus or hip flexors. Critics argue that it is less effective than other adduction exercises, because the glute muscles have a harder time activating while you are in the seated position. The abductor machine targets the muscles that are used for hip abduction, namely your tensor fasciae latae and your three glute muscles: the gluteus medius, minimus and maximus. Skeptics note that while the machine does strengthen these muscles, it also tightens the iliotiibial band, connective tissue that helps your hips with abduction. The risk with this, however, is that a tight IT band can throw your knee out of place.

Spot Reduction Myth

The adduction and abduction machines are often mistakenly used in hopes of slimming down thighs. This can’t be done with a strength-training machine, especially one for which you have to sit down and isolate just a few muscles. Since muscle and fat are two different types of tissue, strengthening your muscles will not reduce the fat that covers it. Even if you do burn calories while performing the exercise, you cannot spot reduce or target specific areas for fat loss.

Alternative Exercises

Squats and lunges are effective alternatives to the abduction and adduction machine exercises. According to, not only will these exercises activate your adductor magnus, but because they are compound exercises, they will also target a larger group of muscles, including your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, and erector spinae in your lower back. The side lunge is also particularly effective exercise for targeting your abductors. These exercises are also superior to the abduction and adduction machines, because they actually mimic movements you make in real life.