We squat, deadlift and jump to train the big lower-body muscles, especially our glutes, hamstrings and quads. But we often forget about the adductors—the muscles on the inside of our thighs.
And this is a problem. Failing to train adductor muscles increases your risk of a pulled groin, affects hip stability and overall muscle symmetry and can even impair your agility.
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Before we get into how to strengthen these muscles, let’s take a step back and look at the anatomy of the adductors.
There are three adductor muscles: the adductor longus, the adductor brevis and the adductor magnus. The origin points of each are situated around the pelvis, and their insertions are at various points around the femur (thigh bone). Another forgotten set of muscles are the iliacus.
It is not essential to perform isolation exercises for the adductors. In fact, many adductor exercise machines could cause your hips to stiffen up or cause repetitive stress.
Here are some exercises that I’ve found effective:
Knee Lifts and Leg Raises
I personally believe that the best way to work the adductors is by practicing various Knee Lifts and Leg Raises.
I often give a new client a goal of developing the ability to perform 3 sets of 12 Side-Lying Leg Raises. They are expected to do this without losing their posture. If a client can achieve this, their foundation will be good enough to go on to more advanced exercises.
Resisted Knee Raises can also develop powerful adductors for lateral movement.
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Box Squat With Knee Raise
A drill that I’ve found particularly helpful is a simple Box Squat with a Knee Raise. When performing this compound movement, I recommend filming your technique from the side. Make note of your posture. Can you maintain a neutral alignment in the bottom of the squat position and at the top of the Knee Raise? Also, is your range of motion the same on each hip?
The next advancement is to implement a pulley system. A Box Squat with a Knee Raise can be advanced by attaching a pulley to your ankle. This will fire up both your adductors and your illiacus.
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The resistance you use on the cable depends on your technique. If you are unable to hold correct form for under 12 repetitions, you are trying to lift too heavy. Also, keep the tempo slow and steady.
One of my favorite things about this complex is how well it develops hip and torso disassociation. For many young athletes who start with me, moving their femur without their body following is complicated. This drill becomes as much about skill development as engaging your muscles.
The Box Squat and Knee Raise can fit into a routine in many ways. It is a good warm-up for a Squat session but also a good-warm up for an acceleration session. I also like to use the Box Squat with Knee Raise for technical re-enforcement. I often encourage my athletes to perform the exercise between bouts of sprinting and acceleration drills.
Always remember to prioritize technique before muscular exhaustion.