If you’ve read my last three posts, you’re probably starting to develop a pretty decent grasp on lower body functional anatomy. Together with parts 1, 2 and 3, this article and the next will complete the lower body portion of my Anatomy For Athletes Miniseries.
…Let’s dive right into it…
Functional Anatomy of the Adductors
The adductor group consists of five muscles — adductor magnus, adductor brevis, adductor longs, gracilis, and pectineus. Together, these five muscles form the medial compartment of the thigh (AKA the groin).
All five adductor muscles originate on the lower end of the pelvis and insert, at varying levels, on the back of the femur. Their primary function is to adduct the legs (i.e. pull the the legs toward midline)… Think “ThighMaster” or the machines at the gym that vaguely resemble an OB’s stir-ups. Got the picture?
Now that I’ve helped you visualize the movements that your adductors produce, I want you to forget those two pieces of “fitness” equipment. Because if you want to train your adductors properly, you should avoid the adductor machine and Suzanne Somer’s money-maker like the plague.
While hip adduction is the primary function of the adductor group, they also contribute to hip flexion and internal rotation (i.e. swinging the leg forward and rotating it inward).
It’s common for the adductors to be an undertrained muscle group because most human movements are linear (e.g. running, walking, cycling, etc.) and most naive exercisers tend to focus on movements in that linear (AKA sagittal) plane.
Unless you’re already including single-leg, wide stance, and frontal plane exercises in your programs, you probably aren’t targeting your adductors enough to realize their full strength and injury prevention potential.
Weak adductors increase the risk of sustaining an adductor strain (AKA a pulled groin). Adductor strains are pretty common in sports that involve quick changes in direction. They’re quite painful and slow to heal, so they can sideline you from activity for up to six to eight weeks. Weak adductors are also one of the potential causes of patellofemoral pain syndrome.
So why not attempt to prevent these issues by including some adductor training in your programs?
As I mentioned earlier, the two best ways to strengthen your adductors are to include single-leg exercises and wide-stance exercises.
But before outlining specific exercises that strengthen your adductors, I’d like to point out one important point. Some of these exercises might not be best for you if you find that your knees often buckle inward — or knock — when you do exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, and step-ups.
If this is the case, your adductors might be tight and your glutes are probably weak. Tight adductors are just as common as weak ones, so be careful. If your knees tend to knock, be sure to include some adductor mobility work and glute strengthening (with a particular focus on exercises that involve hip ABDuction glute exercises).
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are a few exercises that will target your adductors a helluva lot better than the ThighMaster or similar machines you may find in a big box gym:
- Split squat variations
- 30-degree, 45-degree, or lateral lunge variations
- Single-leg squat variations
- Sumo deadlifts
- Sumo squats
(I've added a few exercise description videos to the end of this post)
Adductor exercises are particularly important to include if you play sports that require quick cutting or changes in direction. (Regardless of whether or not you fit into this category, remember that it’s important to include exercises for all all major muscles groups, movement patterns, and movement planes.)
The adductors are largely composed of slow-twitch muscle fibres. So it’s important to train them differently than you might train more fast-twitch muscles like the quads or hamstrings. The adductors are better trained with higher rep ranges and greater time under tension (i.e. slower tempo) than the quads and hamstrings.
Remember that excessively tight adductors are just as problematic as weak ones, so if your adductors are tight, be sure to spend some time smashing and mobilizing them.
Adductor Exercise Videos
Here are a few exercises that work the adductors...
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