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How We Get Training THIS Hip Muscle So Wrong!

Jessica Bento, Physical Therapist (Co-Creator DVRT Restoration, Pelvic Control, and Shoulder Courses)

We are still kinda stuck, stuck in thinking about individual muscles, the typical talk you hear in many bodybuilding circles. Listen, if you want to follow a bodybuilding program, more power to you! However, for so many, they want to look good, but they also want to feel good, perform well, and spend their time doing the things that are MOST productive to their fitness goals. A great example is how I see people address this hip muscle so wrong!

That is the maybe not exciting…adductors. If you aren’t familiar with the adductors you might recognize people trying to train them in the manner you see below in the gym. If that doesn’t help get you excited, issues in the adductors can also be causes of knee, hip, and other pain or movement dysfunctions. For an important muscle, we usually train this hip muscle in really poor ways. Let’s look at 3 BIG misconceptions of this group of muscles that can have a big impact on your ability to make progress, or battle chronic problems.

hip muscle

#1 The Adductors Are Designed to Move Your Legs Together

The issue with exercises like the one above is while they do train the adductors, they do so in such a non-functional manner. For those that want to talk some functional anatomy (don’t worry I will give the Cliff’s notes too) I recommend this statement from the renown Gray Institute…

“The conventional approach to muscles would emphasize that these muscles adduct the hip. And indeed they can. However, in weight-bearing activities, the majority of hip adduction is created by gravity, acting on the center of mass, driving the pelvis down on the unsupported side. If both feet are on the ground, hip adduction will be created if the pelvis slides towards that leg. So if during upright activities, the hip adduction is not created by the hip adductor muscles, then what is the functional purpose of this large mass of muscle?

hip muscle

Many years ago, Gary Gray used the analogy of the angled supports (struts) of a table to represent the stabilizing function of controlling motion between the pelvis (table top) and the femurs (table legs). In the frontal plane, the adductor muscle has a major role in controlling abduction of the stance hip as the pelvis slides toward the opposite leg. With both feet on the ground the right adductors control adduction of the left hip.

One of the unique anatomical features of the adductor muscles as a group is that their function in the sagittal and transverse planes is dependent on the starting joint position. If the hip is flexed, then some portion of the adductor group will create extension. If the hip is extended, then another portion will create flexion. This occurs in every walking cycle. As the front leg goes through flexion, the adductors will decelerate the flexion and then create extension (along with many other muscles). But at this same time, the back leg is going through hip extension. The adductors on that side will help slow down this motion (along with the hip flexors) and then actually help create the hip flexion occurring during the forward swing of the leg. This same type of position-dependent function occurs in the transverse plane, as the adductors can function as internal or external rotators.”

Okay, if that just made your head explode, think of the adductors (much of the abductors) this way. As we walk, muscles like the adductors play a big role in us not falling or leaning to the side. So, their job largely is to resist movement to keep us in good posture and alignment especially during movement because there are forces trying to move us out of position. We will bring this into very practical terms in a moment, but it is important to understand what these muscles are really designed to do!

#2 Side Planks Are The Best Way To Train Adductors

Compared with the machines I showed you earlier, side planks are a MILLION times better in training the adductors. In fact, exercises like the Copenhagen side plank is a very valuable way to build up functional capacity of the adductors as I show below.

The issue with side planks isn’t their use, but rather that is where many training programs stop paying attention to the role of the adductors in actual movement. As I show below, the side plank is a great foundation for training this hip muscle group, but it should be just that, the start!

You see the goal should be moving to more upright positions where the adductors are forced to help stabilize our body in positions like half kneeling, lunging and more. Even during a Shoulder squat like you see above, having the weight on my shoulder really forces muscles like the adductors to work hard to resist unwanted movement. In a balanced squat they are still active, this just raises their game in how they have to function at a higher level. This does take us to our final point.

#3 Using Adductors As Prime Movers Isn’t The Ideal Goal

The reason we spend the time going over some of the science of movement is because if we don’t understand how something works, making it better is going to be difficult. It also helps us choose what are better exercises to train the muscles but  also accomplish so much more at the same time. I say this because I see people trying to perform more functional exercises to target the adductors with exercises that do train the adductors, but not in the way they optimally perform. This includes drills like being kneeling and trying to slide yourself across the room by pushing off and focusing on the adductors. Sure, you will work the muscles, but it is a far less functional exercise as you will see.

Many people wouldn’t see the exercises I show above as adductor and abductor exercises but this is actually how these muscles are designed to function! What these drills do really well is train the adductors in what they actually do when we move which is help maintain our balance and single leg stance. In addition, making a connection with the core (more specifically the obliques) that have a direct connect to the adductors through the Anterior Oblique Sling.


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Coach John Rhodes shows some great progressions to smarter ways of training our adductors. This group of hip muscles really shines in lateral hip hinges and lunges because it must product and resist force at the same time, very similar to what they do in life. It is important to know that we start by sliding a leg out because that reduces the amount the hip muscle has to absorb. Understanding this is really important because many times people progress too quickly and because they jump these progressions they create HUGE amounts of soreness that are no fun and doesn’t motivate people to keep training these concepts.

Lunging or stepping out to hinge takes great strength of the hip muscle to decelerate the body and then retransmit the force to return to the start. It is also why so many people are so tight in their adductors, they often have a perceived weakness and/or instability by the body and so the body creates tightness to prevent injury. So, just stretching your adductors won’t make a big change in the hip muscle than if we possibly stretched AND strengthened in more functional positions.

There are so many ways we can train the adductors from positions like half kneeling, side plank progressions, lunging, step-ups, and why we created tools like our ARES sled that give us so many options in training these qualities like Josh shows below. While adductors specifically aren’t a goal in many programs, they usually become so when it is too late and they are a problem. This is why in DVRT we focus on movement and movement principles that make our programs functional. They aren’t designed to replicate what we do in life, they are designed to take the science of movement and put it into practical terms that makes your training better!

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