What Are the Adductors and Why Are They Important?

why you need to work your adductors

The adductors are a group of muscles on the inner thighs that pull the legs inward and allow them to come together toward the body's midline. As a NASM-certified personal trainer, I often get asked why strengthening these tiny muscles is so important if they seem to have a relatively simple function. According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), "The adductors play an important role in stabilizing the hips and knees during virtually all movements of the legs." Maintaining strong adductors can significantly reduce the risk of lower-body injury. For athletes, sports like hockey, football, soccer, basketball, and tennis rely heavily on the adductors for quick changes of direction and forceful lateral movements. Even daily functional activities like getting in and out of a car, going up and down stairs, stumbling to catch balance, and preventing falls require solid adductor strength.

What are the Specific Muscles and Functions?

When discussing the adductors, I'm referring specifically to five muscles that angle diagonally across the inner thigh:

  1. Adductor longus: Attaches pubis bone to the upper femur, adducts, and laterally rotates the hip
  2. Adductor brevis: Located behind L, originates on inferior ramus, inserts femur
  3. Adductor magnus: Largest and most powerful adductor, made of two sections 
  4. Gracilis: Thin, flat muscle running the entire length of the medial thigh  
  5. Pectineus: Rectangle-shaped muscle behind brevis

Together, these fan-shaped muscles adduct the thighs toward the midline, prevent thigh abduction, stabilize legs for balance and coordination, assist with hip extension/rotation, and contribute to proper pelvic alignment. 

For example, the pectineus and upper portion of the adductor magnus specifically externally rotate and extend the hips when contracting. Even simple actions like walking, balancing on one foot, or squatting become risky and injury-prone without proper activation from this group. These muscles play central but underappreciated roles! 

Imbalances Cause Problems

I often see clients with chronic groin strains, hip flexor overuse, and adductor tendonitis stemming from weak adductors alongside tight opposing muscle groups. This imbalance negatively impacts the control of femur movements, placing extra strain on the hip and knee joints during activity. Dedicated stretching and progressive strengthening of neglected inner thigh muscles alleviate these issues.  

What are the Benefits of Strong Adductors?

Strong adductors provide many functional and performance benefits. The top advantages I highlight for my clients are.

Stability and Balance

As ACE pointed out, "The adductors play an important role in stabilizing the hips and knees during virtually all movements of the legs." Tighter adductors can help stabilize the pelvis, femurs, and knees against external forces like shifts in body weight, ground impacts, or unwanted rotation/torque that could strain joints. Developing adductor strength improves general balance and coordination. Per biomechanics researchers, "enhancing the strength and coordination of the hip adductors and abductors may have implications for decreasing knee pathology and ACL injuries."

For example, a 2018 case study found that incorporating targeted strengthening of the adductor longus and magnus alongside rectus femoris effectively reduced knee valgus and improved landing mechanics in a college volleyball athlete with previous ACL reconstruction.  

Injury Prevention  

Unstable knees and loose hips contribute to a higher incidence of knee, hip, groin, and hamstring injuries. Strengthening the adductors (especially alongside the abductors) maintains proper muscle balance around these joints and reinforces efficient mechanics during movement. Strong adductors can help keep athletes on the field and active adults out of the doctor's office. As physiotherapist Joanne Elphinston explains, "Strong adductors help maintain appropriate pelvifemoral rhythm (hip to knee alignment/timing)," which influences coordination and control.

Better Sports Performance  

We rely heavily on lateral motions, change of direction, and rotational power in sports. As personal trainer Nick Tumminello explains, "The stronger your adductors are, the quicker you'll be able to change directions." Football, basketball, hockey, tennis, and volleyball require strong adductors for rapid starts/stops, lateral lunges, defensive maneuvers, and explosive directional changes. Targeting the adductors directly improves agility-related strength.

For example, researchers found soccer athletes with stronger adductors demonstrated more efficient acceleration and faster top sprint speed than peers with muscle imbalance around the thigh.

Overall Functional Movement

Everyday movements such as squatting down, getting in/out of vehicles, stumbling to catch balance, climbing stairs, and spreading or bringing legs together during activities rely heavily on adductor strength and flexibility. Without sufficient adductor control, issues like knee valgus collapse, hip drop, and pelvic instability heighten injury likelihood. Training these muscles protects foundational movement patterns.

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What are the Best Adductor Exercises Using Resistance Bands?

Resistance bands provide practical, affordable, and convenient ways to strengthen the adductors from home. Some of my top recommended moves are Copenhagen Planks, Side Plank marches, and Cossack Squats!

Copenhagen Planks

Copenhagen planks effectively target the adductors due to the sideways position, engaging these muscles to stabilize the body. This exercise can improve hip and core stability, enhance sports performance, and reduce the risk of groin injuries.

Side Plank March

Side plank marches engage the adductors by requiring them to stabilize the body in a sideways position while lifting and lowering the leg, helping to strengthen and tone these muscles. This exercise also improves core stability, hip strength, and overall balance, making it beneficial for athletic performance and injury prevention.

Cossack Squat

Cossack squats target the adductors by stretching and strengthening them as you lower into a deep lateral lunge, helping to improve flexibility and strength in these muscles. This exercise also enhances hip mobility, balance, and lower body strength, making it a valuable addition to any workout routine for functional fitness.

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How Do I Program Adductor Training Effectively? 

Periodized, progressive loading tailored to specific fitness goals optimizes results from adductor training. Follow these tips:

Muscle Growth

Per ACE, target adductors 2-3 days per week with moderate loads of 8-12 reps and full 90-second rest periods for hypertrophy. Prioritize peak contraction and time under tension.  

Muscular Endurance  

Increase training frequency to 3 days weekly with higher volume and shorter rest periods of around 30 seconds between sets of 12-20 reps. Metabolic stress boosts definition. 

Injury Prevention 

Work adductors 2-3 days a week with integrated flexibility training like targeted hip openers (figure 4 stretch, frog pose). Build foundational strength first before adding plyometrics.

Sports Performance

Vary rep speed and band resistance for heavy strength (4-8 reps) and explosive power days. ACSM notes that adductors require multiplanar unilateral/bilateral work. Prioritize integrated movement patterns.  

Assessing Imbalances

Analyze bilateral differences in max adduction force production. Have athletes adduct maximally against resistance bands while monitoring medial knee positions. Compare right/left sides.  

What is the Verdict on Adductor Training for Fitness?

Though small, this muscle group is critical in foundational strength and everyday mobility, reducing injury likelihood and boosting sports performance. Personal trainer Nick Tumminello's advice is spot on: "If you want healthy hips and optimized athletic capacity, you need to train your adductors." Resistance bands let you incorporate this vital training effectively from home. By building balanced adductor strength alongside flexibility, we keep muscles supple yet supportive, joints protected, and bodies moving fluidly. My professional verdict strongly endorses consistent education and exercises for this small but mighty adductor group!

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Here is a sample beginner adductor training program over 12 weeks

Week 1-2:

2x weekly    

3 sets x 15 reps banded clamshells

3 sets x 15 reps banded seated adduction  

Week 3-4:

2-3x weekly

3 sets x 10 reps banded side steps 

3 sets x 12 reps single leg banded clamshells

Week 5-6:  

3x weekly

4 sets x 8 reps banded monster walks

3 sets x 10-12 reps weighted banded adduction

Week 7-8: 

3x weekly 

3 sets x 8 reps banded monster walks w/ calf raises 

3 sets x 10 reps weighted banded adduction w/ 3 second eccentric 

Week 9-12:

3x weekly

5 sets x 6 reps banded monster walks heavy band w/ multiplanar patterning 

4 sets x 8-10 reps weighted banded adduction with eccentric emphasis

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  1. American Council on Exercise (ACE). "Not Just for the Boys: Exercises for Strong Adductors." Published Nov 29, 2021. 

2.ycor.es. "Role of Hip Adductor and Abductor Muscles in Soccer - Science for Sport." Accessed Feb 15, 2023.

  1. TeachMeAnatomy.info. "The Adductors of the Thigh - TeachMeAnatomy." Accessed Feb 17, 2023. 
  2. R. Ferber, L.R. Osternig, M.H. Woollacott, N.J. Wasielewski, J.H. Lee. "Gait mechanics in chronic ACL deficiency and subsequent repair." Clinical Biomechanics. 2003 Apr 1;18(4):274-85.
  3. The Prehab Guys Podcast. "Adductor Strains, Strengthening & Rehab with Jo Elphinston." Jan 20, 2022.  
  4. Tumminello, Nick. "Are Your Adductors Holding You Back?" Published online at T Nation. Apr 8, 2019. 
  5. Samuel, Ebenezer. "The Single Best Inner Thigh Exercise You Can Do." Published online at Men's Health. Jan 27, 2022.
  6. Atkins, Charlee. "8 Resistance Band Exercises to Sculpt Strong, Toned Inner Thighs." Published online at OpenFit.  
  7. Santana, Juan Carlos. "NASM Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning." 2021. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.  
  8. Thiessen, Jennifer. "ACSM’s Complete Guide to Fitness and Health." 2017. 2nd ed. Champaign: Human Kinetics. 
  9. Myer, Gregory & Ford, Kevin & Di Stasi, Stephanie & Foss, Kim & Micheli, Lyle & Hewett, Timothy. "High knee abduction moments are lower in dancers/gymnasts compared to soccer players during drop landings: Implications for ACL injury prevention." British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2015 Oct; 49(18):1179-86.
  10. Ribeiro-Alvares, João & Dornelles, Michael & Fritsch, Janaína & de Lima-e-Silva, Rafael & Palafox, Juliana & Peyré-Tartaruga, Leonardo & Sperb, Aline. (2022). “Association between adductor muscles strength imbalance and linear sprint performance in soccer athletes.” PLOS ONE. 17. e0262988. 
  11. Robertson, Mike. "Banded Side Walks." Published online at Mike Robertson Strength and Conditioning. 

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