4 Adductor Exercises For Getting Stronger and Preventing Injuries

Make these often neglected muscles your new focus.

Many athletes neglect their adductors. Lifters often focus on their quads, glutes, hamstrings, and to a lesser extent their calves. But when your inner thighs are sore or tight, your adductors have made their presence felt. Heaven forbid a groin gets pulled.

Why endure those potential physical ailments when you could instead just pay more attention to your adductors?

What Are The Adductors?

Adductor Muscle Map
Image via Shutterstock/Hank Grebe

The adductor muscle group is made up of these muscles:

  • Adductor brevis 
  • Adductor longus
  • Adductor magnus (including the adductor minimus)
  • Pectineus: the most anterior adductor of the hip, enables hip flexion.
  • Gracilis: the thin, flat muscle on the medial surface of the thigh.
  • Obturator externus: the muscle that covers the outer surface of the anterior wall of the pelvis.

The adductors originate on the pubis and ischium bones (bottom of the pelvis) and insert on the medial posterior surface of the femur (thigh bone).

OK, So What Do Adductors Do?

These main role of the adductor muscles is to adduct (move toward the midline of the body) the hips and thighs. In other words, if your legs are spread, they help bring them back together. They’re also prime movers to help get you out of the bottom of the squat.

The adductors are often trained on the adductor/abductor machine where, unless seeking an awkward moment, eye contact is a definite no-no.

Other important functions of the adductor muscles:

  • Hip flexion
  • Hip internal and external rotation
  • Hip extension
  • Pelvis stabilization
  • Knee flexion
Adductor Machine
Image via Shutterstock/Meesiri

3 Reasons Why the Adductors Are Important

1. Injury Prevention

Training the adductors directly can better prevent groin strains. And if you’re an athlete competing in a sport that requires you to sprint or change direction, adductor strength should be one of your priorities.

A review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2015 concluded that hip adductor strength was one of the most common risk factors for groin injury in sport (1).

One study on professional ice hockey players found that they were seventeen times more likely to sustain a groin injury if their adductor strength was less than 80% of their abductor strength (2).

2. Hip Extension and Flexion

It may be obvious, but your hips flex and extend during many common movements such as jumping, sprinting, squatting, and deadlifting. Having explosive hip extension is one of the differences that separate good athletes from great athletes.

The glutes and hamstrings are the primary hip extensors, but the adductor magnus (largest adductor muscle) assists with hip extension also. If you’ve ever felt like your adductors are sore after a brutal leg day, now you know why.

3. Improve Rotational Power

Baseball Swing
Image via Shutterstock/JoeSAPhotos

The adductors’ ability to internally and externally rotate the hips is directly related to rotational power. So athletes whose sports require rotational power to perform well will benefit greatly by strengthening their adductors. Here is a short list of sports where the main movement is either a swing or throwing motion, both of which are inherently rotational:

  • Golf
  • Tennis (and any other sport that uses a racket)
  • Hockey (both ice and field)
  • Baseball
  • Football (specifically the quarterback and special teams)
  • Lacrosse

[Related: Check out these seven rotational exercises that help build explosiveness.]

Here are four accessory exercises to make sure your adductors get the attention they deserve:

1. Single Leg Glute Bridge With Squeeze

This exercise trains the adductors of the straight leg while training hip extension on the other. The squeezing of the foam roller or medicine ball ensures hip extension is engaged by the glutes rather than the lower back.

Form Tips and Programming Suggestions

Make sure you feel this in your adductors and glutes and not the lower back. This is definitely an exercise you do not need a lot of weight for. Ensuring proper sensation; that you feel the work happening in the correct places is more important that amount of weight used.

Try 3 sets of 8-12 reps on each leg after your main strength movement for the day.

2. Cossack Squat

The Cossack Squat trains both adductors and abductors while working the frontal (horizontal) plane. It’s great to train the body to move in different directions since most strength exercises work along the sagittal (vertical) plane.

This movement is a perfect warm-up exercise before leg day. If you’re feeling strong and comfortable enough, feel free to add weight.

Form Tips and Programming Suggestions

The Cossack Squat challenges hip mobility, so if you’re limited in the area, only go as far down as your body allows. There is no need to tear a groin muscle in the gym because you are pushing uncomfortably beyond your limits.

This is not a maximum strength exercise, so don’t go crazy with load.

3 sets of 8-12 reps will have you feeling your inner thighs when you wake up tomorrow.

[Related: Learn how it is done using the definitive guide to Cossack squats.]

3. Copenhagen Side Plank

The Copenhagen Side Plank involves maintaining a side plank where the top leg attempts to adduct against a bench. You should feel your oblique engage further to maintain stability while maintaining adductor stability.

Form Tips and Programming Suggestions

Changing the lever on this exercise (knee or ankle on bench) makes this easier or more difficult.  Make sure to engage your glutes, actively press your elbow (or hand) into the ground and keep the body in straight line.

Instead of trying for time, do 3-5 breaths on both sides.

4. Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss

Any rotational medicine ball throw will do here; the scoop toss is an example of many. This exercise is a great starting point if you’ve never done rotational throws before.

Medicine ball throws are a lot fun and can add power to your training.

Form Tips and Programming Suggestions

Choose the size of the medicine ball wisely because if you go too heavy, you’ll end up training strength, not power. Make sure you’re generating power from your back hip (internal rotation) and not your arms.

Programming Suggestions

Perform this before your strength training for the day for 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps on both sides.

Wrapping Up

It’s only natural to neglect the smaller, non-showy muscles of your body. But with the adductors, you do so at the risk of injury and being blasted by on the sporting field.

And these exercises are a little less embarrassing than the yes/no machine.

FAQs

What are adductors?

The adductors are a group of muscles on the inside of the thighs, and their main function is bringing the legs together and turning the hips toward the midline of the body.

They originate on the pubis and ischium bones (the bottom of the pelvis) and insert on the medial posterior surface of the femur (thigh bone).

How many muscles make up the adductors?

The adductor muscle group is made up of these muscles:

  • Adductor brevis
  • Adductor longus
  • Adductor magnus (including the adductor minimus)
  • Pectineus: the most anterior adductor of the hip.
  • Gracilis: the thin, flat muscle on the medial surface of the thigh.
  • Obturator externus: the muscle that covers the outer surface of the anterior wall of the pelvis.

Why do athletes need strong adductors?

Strong, stable, healthy adductors are necessary for optimal hip extension, they help to keep the knees in line with the toes during squats (especially in the bottom of squats), and they can help to prevent groin strains. In fact, one study found that disproportionately weak adductors increased an athlete’s risk of injury by seventeen times.

Adductors are also crucial for rotational power, so athletes in sports that involve swinging (like golf and tennis) or throwing (like football and baseball) should not neglect adductors.

A sore or tight groin may be an indication of weak adductors.

References

  1. Jackie L Whittaker, et al. Risk factors for groin injury in sport: an updated systematic review. Br J Sports Med 2015; 49:803-809
  2. Tyler TF, et al. The association of hip strength and flexibility with the incidence of adductor muscle strains in professional ice hockey players. Am J Sports Med. 2001 Mar-Apr;29(2):124-8.

Feature Image via Shutterstock/Meesiri.

Shane McLean

Shane McLean

Shane McLean is a Certified Personal Trainer who’s worked with a wide variety of clients, from the general population client all the way to ex-Navy seals and college athletes.

Shane is a big believer in seeing exercise as a gift for the body and never a punishment — exercise should be as enjoyable as possible and never just a “work” out.

1 thought on “4 Adductor Exercises For Getting Stronger and Preventing Injuries”

  1. This is a whole lot of new and very informative approach to preparing for a big work out. Kind regards Tom. I am 72 years of age who likes comparative tennis as a pastime sport, and will make excellent use of this on my fitness

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