Six Adductor Exercises to Build Stregngth

aerobic exerciseStep aerobics is one way to help strengthen the adductor and abductor muscles. (Photo via IT Stock / Polka Dot / Thinkstock.)

Recently, I was found out that my adductors (the muscles on the inner thighs responsible for hip stability and alignment) and abductors (the muscles on the outside of the thigh) are weak. Pathetically weak, to be exact. Even though I regularly do leg lifts to work these muscles, it wasn’t enough to ward off injury and imbalance. It turns out runners are likely to develop problems with these muscles for several reasons, but one of the most common culprits is running on canted surfaces, especially if you always stick to the same side of the road. Women are at particular risk because of that troublesome Q-angle — the angle from the hip to the knees goes inward, like a V.

Don’t know where to begin with training your adductors? Use this quick guide to make the training manageable. I’ve broken it down into seven daily exercises that can be done in five minutes or fewer. Do one a day, and you’re well on your way to adductor strength.

Day 1: Shallow knee bends. The emphasis on this exercise is alignment, so stand in front of a mirror and bend your knees a quarter of the way down to seated. As you do so, make sure your knee is straight in line with your big toe. If it tends to drop inward, you are a prime candidate for this strength work. This exercise can be done multiple times a day to help train the body as to what proper alignment feels like.

Day 2: Leg lifts. Lying on one side, bend the knee closest to the ground to 90 degrees and lift the other leg straight up toward the ceiling. Do 10 reps on each side. Then bend the knee closest to the ceiling and straighten the other leg, lifting it up toward the ceiling. Do 10 reps on each side, working up to 20 reps in the coming weeks. Adding ankle weights will make this more challenging.

Day 3: Step aerobics. Step aerobics incorporates many different side steps including grapevines, or just lateral steps up, sideways, or even over the top of the step. All of these require the adductor to work. Just a few minutes of these target activities, either at home or part of a class, can be a fun way to work on these muscle groups.

Day 4: Clam shells. This one requires a stretching band or bungee cord of some sort. (GoFit brand offers a set of three resistances for less than $20.) Wrap the band around your knees and sit on a chair so that your knees are bent at 90 degrees. Separate your knees to pull against the resistance. Do 10 reps. This can also be done lying on one side. Bend knees to a comfortable 100 degrees or so, and lift one knee toward the ceiling to pull against the resistance band. Alternate sides.

Day 5: Stadiums. This is a simple variation of step aerobics. Find a lengthy set of stairs to climb, but don’t just walk straight up them. Place your foot on the wide end of each stair so that you have to reach for the opposite edge of the stair each time. For an added challenge, try skipping steps or jogging each step instead of walking.

Day 6: Standing leg swings. This exercise works on flexibility, but add ankle weights and it doubles as strength work. Stand next to a wall or fence post for support. Begin by facing the wall with your hand reached out for balance, and swing one leg side to side. Be sure to use muscles to do this, trying to keep the hips square to the wall (don’t just let gravity do the work). Do 10 full swings with each leg, then stand perpendicular to the wall and swing each leg forward and backward.

Day 7: Rest. Even God took a day off, right?