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March 08, 2023 12 min read

The muscles located in the inner thigh area commonly referred to as the adductors or groin muscles are often overlooked when it comes to lower body training. However, they are vital in providing stability to the hip joint and helping to maintain balance during daily activities and sports.

Therefore, it is important to incorporate exercises that target these muscles.

Adductor strength can help protect against injuries to the hip, knee, and ankle by stabilizing and controlling your movements when shifting side-to-side and doing lower-body exercises such as squats and lunges. Additionally, these muscles are important for keeping your pelvis in the correct position and for good posture.

What are Hip Adductors?

The hip adductors are a group of muscles located along the inner thigh region that bring the legs together towards the middle of the body. Starting along the pubic bone and extending to the back of the femur, these muscles are used to pull the legs together, allowing for inner thigh activation when squeezed. They are commonly referred to as groin muscles.

When doing adductor exercises, it is important to take certain steps to ensure the best outcome and avoid injury like a groin strain. Gradually increase the range of motion, warm up before starting and concentrate on feeling the contraction.

Muscles That Form the Hip Adductors

Hip adductors are a group of five muscles in the inner thighs:

Adductor Muscles - Image from Shutterstock

Adductor Brevis

The adductor brevis is the smallest of the hip adductors. It is shaped like a triangle and is situated behind the adductor longus and in front of the adductor magnus. Its primary function is to bring the hip inwards, but it is also involved in hip flexion and potentially hip external rotation.

Adductor Longus

This muscle, which is shaped like a triangle, is the most superficial of the hip adductors. Its primary purpose is to bring the hips together, but it also assists with hip flexion and extension.

Adductor Magnus

Adductor Magnus - Image from Shutterstock

This muscle has a shape resembling a fan and is the largest adductor of the hip. The Adductor Magnus plays an important role in hip extensions as it aids the hip flexors in bending and straightening the thigh at the hip.

Gracilis

The gracilis is one of the weaker hip adductor muscles, located at the surface of the other adductor muscles. Its action is to flex and internally rotate the leg from the knee joint.

Pectineus

The pectineus is a short, flat muscle located in the front and inner part of the thigh. It aids in bringing the thigh forward and bringing it closer to the body at the hip joint. Derived from Latin, its name means “comb.”

The muscles mentioned are not only useful in adducting your thighs but also have other roles due to the different places they originate and attach. Depending on the location of your thigh, they can rotate it inward or outward. In a squatting motion, for example, these muscles are even more powerful at extending the hips than your hamstrings and glutes combined.

What are the Benefits of doing Hip Adductor Exercises?

It is common to overlook the hip adductors when doing strengthening exercises, however, if you don't strengthen these muscles, you put yourself in danger of sustaining groin injuries. Adding bodyweight adductor exercises or adductor machine workouts to your leg routine while strength training will help supplement existing exercises to achieve your overall fitness goals.

Adductor Machine - Image from Shutterstock

Listed below are some benefits of doing hip adductor exercises.

  1. Strengthened Pelvic Floor Muscles: Strengthening the hip adductor muscles helps to support and strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which in turn helps to improve bladder control

  2. Improved Balance and Stability: Including the hip adductor muscles training in your workout routine can help to improve balance and stability when standing, walking, or running, as well as when performing activities such as sports or yoga.

  3. Injury Prevention: Strengthening the hip adductors can help to reduce the risk of strain and injury of the hip, knee, and lower back.

  4. Improved Posture: Strengthening the hip adductors helps to improve posture by keeping the hips and pelvis in alignment, which can help to reduce back and neck pain.

  5. Enhanced Performance: Strengthening the hip adductors can help to improve performance during athletic activities, such as running and jumping, by providing the body with more stability.

What is the Difference Between Hip Adductors and Hip Abductors?

Many people confuse the adductor and abductor muscles.

The hip adductors are a group of muscles located on the inner thigh. These muscles work together to pull the thigh inwards towards the midline of the body and are primarily responsible for hip adduction.

The hip abductors are a group of muscles located on the outer thigh. These muscles work together to pull the thigh away from the midline of the body and are primarily responsible for hip abduction.

Best Adductor Exercises for Hip Strength

It is typically beneficial to do a warm-up prior to physical activity to get your body's circulation going and raise your core temperature, which may reduce the likelihood of getting hurt.

Many people decide to begin their workout with a brief period of low-intensity physical activity, such as using an elliptical or walking on a treadmill, to get their circulation going, which can be followed by stretching.

Dynamic Stretching – Image from Shutterstock

Studies have indicated that dynamic stretching, which involves movement, may be more beneficial than static stretching, which is done without motion when it comes to types of stretching before exercise. This is because dynamic stretching can help maintain muscle strength.

In contrast, stretching exercises that require no movement may reduce muscle power if done before weightlifting.

Examples of suitable dynamic stretches to warm up the adductors could be:

  • Swinging your legs from front to back

  • Swinging your legs from side to side

  • Bodyweight jump squats

  • Jumping Jacks

Once you have prepared your muscles for the workout, you can proceed with performing any or all of the following adductor exercises.

1. Standing Hip Adduction with Resistance Band

Utilizing resistance bands is an effective way to specifically target the adductors, as they can be manipulated to provide different levels of difficulty from different angles. These bands are available in varying lengths and tensions, allowing for a personalized and tailored workout.

Starting position

  • Begin by securing a resistance band to a sturdy anchor, such as a power rack or other equipment that is affixed to the ground.

  • Position yourself perpendicular to the anchor point, with the left side of your body closest to the anchor.

  • Loop the band around your left ankle.

  • Increase the tension of the resistance band by winding the band more tightly around your ankle or increasing your distance from the anchor point.

  • The tension should be enough to require you to resist the pull of the band as you stand with your feet together in the starting position.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Stand tall and bring your banded leg toward the center of your body, slowly sweep your left leg across your right leg until you feel a good contraction in your adductors.

  2. Slowly release your left leg in a controlled movement to get back to the starting position.

  3. Repeat the motion 10 to 12 times before switching sides, facing the opposite way with the resistance band around your right ankle.

  4. Aim for 2–3 sets of 10–12 reps.

2. Seated Banded Adduction

This version of the banded adduction, which is done while seated, is not as challenging because it requires less balance. It is a great choice for those who are just starting out and want to work their adductor muscles.

Starting position

  • Begin by securing a resistance band to a sturdy anchor, such as a power rack or other equipment that is affixed to the ground.

  • Position yourself on a weight bench, perpendicular to the anchor point, with the left side of your body closest to the anchor.

  • Loop the band around your left leg, just below or just above your knee.

  • Increase the tension of the resistance band by winding the band more tightly around your leg or increasing your distance from the anchor point.

  • The tension should be enough to require you to resist the pull of the band as you sit with your knees together.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Allow the resistance band to pull your left leg toward the anchor point while resisting the movement.

  2. Contract your adductor muscles to pull your leg back toward the midline of your body.

  3. Repeat the motion 10 to 12 times before switching sides, facing the opposite way with the resistance band around your right leg.

Aim for 2–3 sets of 10–12 reps.

3. Wide Stance Squat

The squat is widely recognized as the most effective leg exercise, due to its ability to involve all the muscles in the lower body. One variation, in particular, the wide stance squat (also known as a sumo squat), is especially effective at targeting the inner thigh muscles.

There are multiple ways to do this exercise, by either using weights such as a barbell, kettlebell, dumbbell, or sandbag or simply relying on your body weight. In this article, we'll discuss the wide stance squat without any weighted equipment.

Starting position

  • Stand up straight with your feet a bit wider than shoulder width

  • Place your feet with your toes pointed slightly outward.

  • Lift your arms and cross them to rest your left hand on your right shoulder, and your right hand on your left shoulder.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Shift your weight backward and flex your knees to slowly lower your hips as far as you can.

  2. In a controlled motion, return to the starting position by pushing through the floor, feeling the adductors in your inner thighs and your glutes contract.

Aim for 2–3 sets of 10–12 reps.

4. Cossack Squat

This exercise works the quads, glutes, hamstrings, abs, core, hip abductors, and lower back. It also engages the ankles, knees, hips, and connective tissues. Doing the Cossack squat requires you to maintain a straight lower back and to go as low as you can, even if it is not all the way down. With practice, you will improve your squat depth and flexibility.

Starting Position

Start in a wide stance, with your feet further apart than hip-width, and with your feet turned out, similar to the sumo squat position.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Brace your core and lean to the left, putting your body weight on your left leg.

  2. Maintaining your hips back and your torso straight, flex your left knee and squat as low as you can, feeling the adductors stretch in your inner thighs.

  3. As you lower yourself to the left, keep your right leg straight, and flex your right foot up with your heel on the floor.

  4. Push down on your left foot to return to the starting position.

  5. Perform the same movements by placing the weight on your right leg, keeping your left leg straight, and flexing your left foot up and your heel to the floor.

Continue alternating the squat directions for the desired number of repetitions.

5. Lateral Lunges

The lateral lunge is a great exercise for anyone, regardless of their fitness level or ability. To increase the difficulty, you can add dumbbells to the routine.

Starting position

  • Stand up straight with your feet hip-width apart.

  • Hold your hands together at chest height.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Take a big step to your right, bending your right knee and keeping your left leg straight.

  2. Push off your right foot to return to the starting position.

  3. Repeat on the opposite side.

  4. Keep your chest lifted and core engaged throughout the exercise.

  5. Repeat on your left leg to complete 1 rep.

Complete 2–3 sets of 10–12 reps on each leg.

6. Side-lying hip adduction

This is a great exercise for beginners, no equipment is required.

 

Starting position

  • Lie on your right side on a mat.

  • Ensure that your spine is neutral, and your hips are stacked.

  • Keep your right arm folded under your head and your left hand on the floor in front of your stomach.

  • Bend your left knee so it points toward the ceiling and place the left foot flat on the floor in front of your right leg.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Keep your bottom leg extended, and the foot flexed, contract your adductor muscles and lift your bottom leg off the floor up to the back of your flexed knee.

  2. Slowly return your right leg to the floor in a controlled motion.

  3. Repeat the movement 10 to 12 times before switching to the other side.

  4. Lie on your left side and flex your right knee to place your right foot on the floor in front of your extended left leg.

  5. Repeat the lifting movement with your left leg for 10 to 12 reps.

Aim to do 2 or 3 sets of 10 to 12 reps on each side.

7. Clamshells

Clamshell exercises are responsible for stabilizing your pelvis. They can help to balance the muscular effort between your inner and outer thighs and your pelvic floor.

Starting position

  • Begin by lying on your left side, with your hips and knees bent at a 90-degree angle, and your feet stacked.

  • Place your left arm under your head for support, and place your right hand on your hip.

  • Loop a resistance band around your thighs.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Engage your adductors and glutes, and brace your core.

  2. Raise your right knee as high as you can without moving your hips.

  3. Your bottom leg should remain on the ground.

  4. Pause for a moment at the top of the movement, then slowly lower your knee back to the starting position.

Repeat all your reps on this side before swapping over to lie on your right side.

Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions on each side.

8. Single-Leg Glute Bridge with Squeeze

The single-leg glute bridge is a more intense version of the standard bridge exercise, working to strengthen multiple muscle groups.

Equipment required: Foam roller or small Swiss ball

Starting position

  • Lie on your back with bent knees and your feet flat on the ground.

  • Put the Swiss ball or foam roller between your thighs.

  • Stretch your arms out at a 45-degree, so they lie at shoulder height.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Extend your left leg up into the air, leaving your right foot flat on the ground.

  2. Remain in that position and push your hips up towards the sky.

  3. At the top of the bridge position, contract your adductors to squeeze the ball or foam roller between your thighs.

  4. Hold the squeeze for a moment before slowly lowering your hips to the starting position.

  5. Do the desired number of reps with the left leg raised before repeating the same number of reps with your right leg extended.

9. Copenhagen Hip Adduction

This activity is only suitable for the most experienced exercisers. It works the adductor muscles using your own body weight. It is a popular choice for weightlifters but is also a good choice for athletes in other sports and for anyone who wants to tone their inner thighs.

Caution is advised as the exercise requires the adductors to be placed in a vulnerable position, thus increasing the likelihood of injury when done incorrectly.

Equipment required: A weight bench or another sturdy chair or bench.

Starting position

  • Start on your left side in a side plank position with your left elbow on the floor and your legs perpendicular to a weight bench or similar piece of equipment.

  • Bend your knee slightly as you place your right leg up to calf height on the bench, keeping your left leg straight and underneath the bench.

  • Positioning yourself further up on the bench with your top leg will ensure you have more stability and less risk of injury.

  • If you choose to rest solely your ankle instead of your lower leg on the bench, this exercise will be significantly harder.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Contract your hip adductors to help your right leg support your body weight on the bench.

  2. Slowly raise your bottom leg until it touches the underside of the bench.

  3. Gradually lower your body back to the starting position.

  4. Your shoulder and trunk should remain straight throughout.

  5. Complete the desired number of reps for that leg, before flipping over to work the adductors of the other leg.

  6. Repeat the desired number of sets for each leg.

Aim for 2–3 sets of 10–12 reps.

10. Adductor machine

This machine can do a great job of training the inner thighs, and the fact that you can adjust the machine to suit your fitness level and experience makes it accessible to all, even beginners.

Starting out super light is best for beginners to avoid injuries.

Starting position

  • Sit on the machine with the pads positioned between your legs.

  • Use your hands to move the pads as wide as is comfortable, and then select your desired resistance.

Here’s how to do it

  1. Squeeze your thighs together in a controlled manner, just until the pads touch, feeling the adductor muscles contract.

  2. Slowly reverse the movement, as you let your thighs return to the starting position.

  3. Repeat for the desired reps and sets.

If you’re a beginner, aim for 2–3 sets of 10 reps.

Conclusion

The adductors are a group of muscles in your inner thighs that are very important as they allow your legs to move toward the center of your body. They are fundamental for providing stability during daily activities and assist in explosive movements like sprinting and leaping.

There are numerous exercises that are designed to strengthen these muscles, however, the 10 discussed here are some of the most effective.

To ensure that you reap the most benefits from your training and to help prevent injury, make sure to always do pre-workout stretches to warm up, increase the range of motion and resistance gradually, and concentrate on contracting your muscles. If you desire to increase your hip muscle strength, mobility, or sports performance, engaging in adductor exercises may be very beneficial.