The (Apparently) Forgotten Muscle Group
I am the first to tell people that I am no expert on the body. It’s complex, and full of mystery; a mixture of physical and metaphysical and synapses and neurons and atoms and carbon and ALL the stuff. Science continues to show us that we still have no clue about tons of things about the body and why it does what it does.
For instance, one of my clients recently said “I don’t know why, but if I just touch this muscle with my finger, I then can flex and feel what I’m supposed to, but if I don’t, I can’t.” My response was, “ I don’t know much, but I know there’s a brain-body connection and somehow that matters.” There are so many things like that.
But. I do get to watch bodies move, all day long, almost every single day. And while often times the textbooks are right, they also deal with the ideal scenario. I happen to operate in the real world and get to see things that I don’t remember reading about or listening to from teachers or clinicians. One of those things I’ve come to notice after hours and hours and hundreds of bodies is that the adductors of the legs seem to be completely neglected by almost everyone in the world, and that some TLC and attention has benefitted every single one. (Or I’m just riding a hundred person heater streak)
The adductors (the insides of the legs, and the parts that will activate if you extend your legs and press both of your feet together really firmly) are made up of five muscles: the gracilis, obturator externus, adductor brevis, adductor longus and adductor magnus. A diagram is below: (credit: teachmeanatomy.info, not pictured: gracilis it runs alongside all of these to the inside)
The primary function of these muscles is to 1) pull the legs towards the middle of the body (what is known as adduction) and 2) flex the thigh, or rather, pull the knee up to hip-height. (PSA: they also have a good bit to do with hip extension, which is the opposite direction, but we won’t worry too much about that one now.) What you’ll notice if you think about most people is that we spend a lot of time sitting. Sitting at the breakfast table, sitting in the car to go to work, sitting at the office, sitting in the car to go home, sitting on the couch, going to bed. Golfers, same routine, but sitting in a golf cart while playing your round.
What this means is that the second job of these muscles is almost unnecessary for a large percentage of the time, because if you’re already sitting, the muscles can just sort of relax in that position, no need to do too much. And what happens when you personally are not asked to do too much? You probably get a little lazy. Then you probably get a lotta-outta shape. Then if someone asks you to do something, you likely can’t.
This has been my experience with clients and their adductors. And the reason for the title of this post is that everyone knows the words CORE, and GLUTES, and ABS, and PECS, and people pay a lot of attention to those, when what I’ve seen is that some adductor work pays some super high dividends.
SO. With that in mind, here are a couple places to start: a stretch, a mobility exercise, and a strengthening exercise for your adductors, to help them stop being lazy, and to grow them nice and strong, so that they won’t cause problems for their neighbors: the hips and the knees.
This exercise is called an “Adductor Rock Back” (probably only by me). To start: head to the ground and get on your hands and knees with your hands right under your shoulders and your knees right under your hips. Find a neutral posture with your spine. From there, kick one foot straight out to the side (the foot can either rest flat on the ground or on its side). Rock the hips back towards the foot straight behind you, keeping the neutral spine the entire time. (I see many people begin to sit tall or round their backs at this point, but keep the posture you started with). You will feel a gentle stretch on the inside of the extended leg. Hold for a second, return to the start and repeat.
This exercise is called a ”Half Kneeling Adductor Mobilization“, but I affectionately refer to it as the “Captain Morgan” after the rum commercial. I like for people to start this without weight, but my favorite thing to do once someone has gotten comfortable, is to add a kettlebell to the middle of their chest in a goblet hold position to add some weight.
To start: Begin in a tall kneeling position with your spine nice and long and both knees under your hips. From there, kick one foot straight out to the side, keeping your torso and hips square to the original direction you were facing. We are looking to get your ankle right under your knee here for about a 90* bend in the knee. Rock straight out to the side, making sure to keep your hips and torso square to the original direction. (If your heel comes up off the ground, scoot your foot further out until this is not an issue). Stabilize and hold for a second, and then come back to the start position.
There are many exercises we can put in here, but I find this one is simple and needs minimal equipment to start (a chair or ottoman work just fine). It is, however, tougher on the core, so if that part is the limiting factor, please message me and I’ll be happy to provide a replacement exercise.
This exercise is called a “Copenhagen Plank” (I’m not sure why) but we can refer to it as a “Adductor Side Plank”. To start, place the top foot on a bench and lay down on your side. The closer to the knee you are the easier this will be, the further down towards the foot or ankle you are in placement the more challenging this will be. You will then bridge up, driving the top foot down into the bench or chair or ottoman and holding this position for time or breaths. You should feel the adductors working hard and the downside obliques doing their part as well. In the video you’ll see my foot under the bench, but on a solid block you would place your foot just in front of the structure.
If you find that none of your workouts have anything to do with the insides of your legs, then I suggest adding these three exercises in. They’ll help tremendously. Golfers, know that if you can’t get to your left side and “post-up” this may be a reason why. The insides of the legs become super flexed and active as you come into impact. Also, as I mentioned earlier (briefly), they also help with the extension of the hips, so if you’re finding back pain during swinging, this is something to check out as well, because if a muscle group isn’t or can’t do its job, something else is going to take over and do extra, enter the lower back.
I’ve seen these three and a few other exercises help countless people and help take away back pain, hip pain, and immobility. Don’t forget them and show them some of that TLC!
Strength is the cure.