Hip abduction exercises, which train the glutes and outer hips, get all the glory.
Just look up “Fitness” under the Explore tab on Instagram and you’ll see people adding a band around their knees for literally anything and claiming it’s a glute exercise. Clam Shells and Lateral Band Walks are a dime a dozen, but what about your adductors (i.e., groin muscles)?
When it comes to your adductors, stretching is the common prescription. Stretch your groin to avoid injury, most trainers and therapists say. But what if adductor strengthening was just as important as stretching? Well, most athletes wouldn’t be caught dead on the hip adduction machine (you know, the one that looks like you’re trying to crush a watermelon between your thighs), and most modern sports performance facilities don’t even have one. Good news, there are better ways to train your adductors for athletic performance.
Here are four reasons why you need strong adductors, and how you can go about building them.
1. Adductors Aid in Hip Extension
Hip extension is perhaps the most powerful movement of the human body. It’s what happens when you take off during a jump, push off during a sprint or lock out a Squat or Deadlift. Explosive hip extension is often the difference between a good athlete and a great athlete, and your adductors can help.
While the glutes and hamstrings are your primary hip extensors, your adductor magnus muscles assist with hip extension. If your groin has ever been brutally sore after a heavy squat day, that’s why.
What’s more, your adductors help stabilize your hip for improved sprinting efficiency. Ever watched a runner whose legs splay out to the side with each stride? Or a runner who bobs side to side excessively, as if they were skating? That’s inefficient movement because it’s not propelling the body forward or keeping the feet under the center of mass.
Adequate adductor strength can help you run like a cheetah instead of waddling like a penguin. Try the 1-leg Romanian Deadlift with Foam Roller Adduction to help strength the adductors during hip extension.
2. Reduce the Chance of Groin Strains
Groin strains are common among athletes, especially those who need to sprint, cut and change direction quickly. That’s because the adductors experience lots of eccentric stress during athletic movements, which means they’re force absorbers. Much like your hamstrings absorb force when your foot hits the ground while sprinting, your adductors do the same when sitting into your hip for a lateral change in direction. Strengthening your adductors can’t guarantee you won’t strain your groin, but it can reduce the likelihood of strains.
Research suggests that increasing adductor strength using the Copenhagen Side Plank, can help reduce the risk of groin strains. It’s also the hardest side plank variation you’ll every try.
3. Get Into More Athletic Positions
Athletes need to get into some crazy positions on the field, court or ice. Ever watch a football running back juke past a defender?
Or a softball pitcher nearly jump off the rubber during her delivery?
Movements like this require serious adductor length (i.e., mobility) and strength (i.e., force production and absorption). To make sure your adductors are ready for positions like this, include lateral lunge variations into your training. The Dumbbell Goblet Lateral Lunge loads the adductors while also challenging your core strength. Make sure to sit back into your hips like a deadlift while keeping the trailing leg as straight as possible.
4. Improve Rotational Power
Believe it or not, the adductors play a huge role in rotational power because of their ability to help rotate the hips. That means if you play baseball, softball, hockey, tennis or lacrosse, you guessed it—you need strong adductors. If your adductors are weak and/or overly tight, you likely won’t be hitting bombs or throwing gas any time soon.
Coaches often talk about “hip and shoulder separation” when throwing and swinging. This means that as you wind up or load up before a throw or swing, there needs to be a weight shift from your back hip to your front hip. As your weight shifts to your front hip, your hips need to rotate in the opposite direction of your shoulders, hence the term “separation.”
If you can’t properly shift your weight from your back hip to your front hip, or if you struggle to rotate your hips before your shoulders, you’ll lose swinging power and throwing velocity. Where do the adductors come into play? Specifically, they help internally rotate the hips to create massive power from the lower body. You can use medicine ball exercises, such as the Rotational Med Ball Scoop Toss, to help train the adductors to properly rotate the hips. Make sure your knees gently (not excessively) point toward each other during the loading phase, and that your front leg finishes completely straight as you throw the ball.
There you have it—four reasons why strong adductors lead to improved athletic performance. The next time you’re tempted to toss a resistance band around your knees and scoot sideways across the gym, try one of the above exercises instead to give your adductors the attention they deserve.
Photo Credit: Al Bello/Getty Images, Doug Monaco/Getty Images, Brian Cleary/Getty Images
READ MORE FROM TONY BONVECHIO: