If you’ve read my previous three posts you should have 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 Functional Anatomy Miniseries.
…So lets dive right into it…
The adductor group consists of five muscles-adductor magnus, adductor brevis, adductor longus, gracilis, and pectineus-that comprise the medial compartment of the thigh (AKA the groin). Generally speaking all of these muscles originate on the inferior, or lower end of the pelvis and insert, at varying levels, on the posterior aspect (back) of the femur. Their primary function is to adduct, or pull 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 your know what your adductors do, keep in mind that if you want to properly train them you should avoid both the machine and Suzanne Somer’s money maker like the plague!
While adduction is the primary function of each adductor muscle, they also contribute to hip flexion and internal rotation. The amount of hip flexion present determines the degree to which each muscle contributes to internal rotation. A quick summary of the origin, insertion and action of each adductor muscle is provided in the chart below…
Because most human movements are linear (i.e. running, walking, cycling, etc.) and most naive exercisers tend to only perform exercises in the sagittal plane, the adductors are often under trained. Unless you’re already including a fair amount of single-leg work or wide stance training (e.g. sumo squats and deadlifts), you probably aren’t targeting your adductors enough to realize their full strength and injury prevention potential.
Weak adductors increase the potential of sustaining an adductor strain. Also known as a groin strain, adductor strains are extremely common in sports that involve quick changes in direction. They are quite painful, often slow to heal and can sideline you from activity for up to 6-8 weeks. Additionally, weak adductors are also one of the potential causes of patellofemoral pain syndrome. So why not attempt to prevent these in the first place?
As I alluded to earlier, two highly effective ways to strengthen your hip adductors are unilateral leg exercises and wide stance exercises. Before outlining specific exercises that strengthen your adductors I’d like to point out one thing…Some of these exercises might be contraindicated if you find that your knees tend to buckle inward, or knock, when you’re doing exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges and step-ups. If this is the case, your adductors are probably tight (this is about as common as weak adductors, so be careful!) and you’d be better off emphasizing stretching your adductors and IT band while strengthening you glutes (the primary abductors) and core. Now that I’m finished going off on my little tangent let me provide you with a few exercises that will target your adductors a helluva lot better than the ThighMaster or similar machines you may find in the gym…
Exercises for the Medial Thigh
- Sumo deadlifts
- Sumo squats
- Bulgarian split squats
- 45-degree lunge
Considerations for Training
Training the adductors is important for those people that participate in sports that require quick cutting or changes in direction. While the quads and hamstrings have a higher percentage of fast-twitch muscle fibers, the adductors usually have a greater proportion of slow-twitch fibers. Therefore, you need to train your adductors differently than you might train your quads and hamstrings. The adductors require higher rep ranges and greater time under tension than the quads and hamstrings.
Remember that tight adductors are just as problematic as weak ones so before beginning the assault on your adductors you should first determine whether yours are weak or tight. If your adductors are tight, you’d be better off focusing on adductor foam rolling, flexibility and mobility exercises rather than strengthening exercises.