Lateral mobility is defined as the ability to move sideways either to the left or to the right. This lateral movement begins with the separation of one of your legs away from the other as seen by the athlete’s right leg in the figure above. The muscles responsible for this action are the hip abductors.
Having strong hip abductors will enable you to be more successful in any sport where quicker and faster lateral mobility is needed. This is because they will allow you to gain a more dominant position over your opponent and make a better play than them.
There are certain times in practically all sports where lateral mobility is required by an athlete. It can be needed while playing defense in basketball, soccer and football as well as offense. Good side-to-side movements are also needed to be successful in tennis when chasing after a ball as well as baseball. There’s rarely a time in a sporting event where lateral mobility isn’t needed.
The hip abductors are a very powerful group of muscles. Sometimes they only have to move the weight of the leg that’s in the air, such as the right leg in the image above. This is the easy part.
However, in sports, this movement is usually accompanied by the other leg aggressively pushing against the ground to separate it from the midline as well, just in the opposite direction. So, while both legs are needed to separate from the midline to create the lateral mobility you desire, the one firmly planted on the ground is doing the most work.
The names of the hip abductor muscles are: 1) Gluteus Maximus, 2) Gluteus Medius, 3) Gluteus Minimus, and 4) Tensor Fascia Lata. There are located on each side of the body and can be seen in Figure 1 below:
Figure 1. The Hip Abductor Muscles.
When it comes to exercising your hip abductors, the go to exercise for many is the hip abductor machine. This is an amazing piece of equipment that if you ever get a chance to use, then do so. However, all is not lost if you find yourself in a gym without one, or have no gym to go to at all. Resistance bands are plenty capable of challenging your hip abductors so that you can begin to increase your lateral mobility and one of the best strategies to use is an isometric training one that is offered here on this site.
The nerve supply to the abductor muscles is as follows: The Gluteus Maximus is supplied by the Inferior Gluteal Nerve and branches from the Sacral Plexus. The Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus, and Tensor Fascia Lata are supplied by the Superior Gluteal Nerve. See Figure 2 below:
Figure 2. Nerves of the Abductor Muscles.
Superior Gluteal Nerve (L4, L5, and S1): Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus, and Tensor Fascia Lata.
Inferior gluteal nerve (L5, S1, and S2): Gluteus Maximus.
The muscle group that works opposite the hip abductors are the hip adductors. Ideally, if you are looking to increase lateral quickness then you will need to make sure you strengthen both of these muscle groups since an imbalance between the two could not only lead to reduced athletic performance, but also, injury.
About the Author of this post: Dr. VanSuch is a chiropractor and former electrical engineer. He developed the speed training method that uses resistance bands with an isometric training strategy to help athletes run faster starting way back in 1996. He has been teaching this technique to athletes, coaches and parents for the last 25+ years and has quite an extensive list of testimonials found throughout this website. Dr. VanSuch’s speed training programs are for running, kicking, jumping as well as swinging a golf club, baseball bat or tennis racket. He also has written an MMA speed program. Athletes of all fitness levels have used his training method with great success. He looks forward to hearing from all those who come across his work and are wanting to learn more. Feel free to contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org