This exercise works your entire bum and core without any equipment

Kirsti Buick
·3-min read
Photo credit: Mikolette - Getty Images
Photo credit: Mikolette - Getty Images

The fire hydrant move is an excellent accessory for leg day, as it targets the hip abductors – specifically, the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus, the lesser-known (and harder-to-reach) neighbours of the gluteus maximus, your largest glute muscle.

Bonus: the position also requires you to fire up your core to keep you stable and avoid lower back rotation.

Fire hydrant benefits

"Done correctly, this exercise can help improve both hip mobility and lumbar [that’s the lower back, FYI] stability," says Emily Taylor, personal trainer at Fitness Lab. "It’s great for warming up the hips and activating the glutes before a workout."

The move also requires movement in the transverse plane – PT speak for rotation – which is often neglected in typical glute or lower body workouts.

"Many of the exercises you do for your lower body, such as squats and deadlifts, occur in the sagittal plane [forwards and backwards]. Working across different planes of motion is key for joint health and overall agility," Taylor explains.

Avoid: You have lower back pain. Try a banded clamshell instead: lie on your side with your legs bent at 90° and a resistance band around your thighs, then lift the top knee to open your legs.

What muscles does a fire hydrant use?

  • Hip abductors

  • Gluteus medius

  • Gluteus minimus

  • Glutes maximum

  • Core

How to do a fire hydrant

a) Start on all fours in a tabletop position, with your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Make sure your back is straight and your core is engaged.

b) With your weight distributed evenly between your hands, lift your right leg out to the side, keeping the knee bent at a right angle. "Think about presenting the outside of your right knee to the ceiling," Taylor suggests.

c) Hold for two seconds, then slowly lower the leg back down to the starting position.

The key? Make sure your body doesn’t rotate to complete the movement. ‘You should feel the muscles in the top of your hip tensing at the top of the move. Go as far as your mobility allows without allowing your lower back to rotate. You might have quite a small range of motion, to begin with – that’s normal,’ Taylor says. Keep firing up those hydrants to increase mobility. Bonus.

Fire hydrant form mistakes to avoid

1. You’re twisting your lower back: "The entire motion should begin and end with the hips – your shoulders shouldn’t rotate, your elbows shouldn’t bend and your lower back shouldn’t twist," Taylor says. To prevent movement elsewhere in the body, think about drawing your belly button in towards your spine to engage the core, she adds.

2. You're going too fast: "You want to stick to a controlled tempo, rather than kicking the leg out and in with zero mind-muscle connection," Taylor says. And don’t forget that pause at the top.

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