Adductors: Learn Your Muscles

adductorsAs a whole, the adductors are important to us because they help stabilize and balance the other muscles in the leg. This, therefore, provides stability that is beneficial for the health of the knees and the hips. Also, I count them as part of the core because, in a vast majority of people, firing the adductors will immediately help recruit the abdominals. Most of the time, if your abdominals are not firing like they’re supposed to, they will after you engage your adductors.

The adductors are a group of muscles that you might know as your inner thigh. There are 3 adductor muscles. Listed smallest to largest they are adductor brevis, adductor longus, and adductor magnus. In addition to these 3 adductor muscles, there are 2 other muscles that are generally lumped into the adductor group. They are the pectineus and gracilis.

Here is some more specific information about these 5 muscles. I very highly recommend that you check out David Keil’s article on the adductors for some awesome graphics and additional information.

Location

Adductors origin and insertion

Adductor brevis, adductor longus, and adductor magnus originate on the anterior part of the pubic bone, called the samus. The adductor magnus also starts on the ischial tuberosity. The ischial tuberosity is the IT part of the SITs bones, which I so frequently mention.

The adductors insert medially the whole length of the femur, from hip to knee.

Pectineus origin and insertion

The pectineus originates on the upper anterior area of the pubic bone, known as the superior ramus. It inserts on the upper medial shaft of the femur.

Gracilis origin and insertion

The origin of the gracilis is the lower margin of the pubic bone. The gracilis inserts on the upper part of the medial surface of the shaft of the tibia. This means that the gracilis crosses both the hip and knee joints.

Function

All of these muscles primarily work to adduct, or bring the leg toward the midline of the body. However, many of the muscles have secondary functions. For example, the adductors also medially rotate the leg. This means they help your leg rotate inward. The pectineus, however, rotates the leg outward, causing lateral rotation.

The adductors longus and brevis and pectineus also flex the extended femur. This means that they bring your thigh bone in front of you.

Since the gracilis crosses the knee joint, it’s not a surprise that the gracilis also flexes the knee and medially rotates the knee joint when flexed. This means that the gracilis helps bend the knee. Also, when the knee is bent, it helps the bent knee rotate inward, toward the midline of the body.

Common Dysfunction

When the muscle is not in proper balance there may be groin injuries. This means that if the adductors are tight, weak, fatigued, or shortened injuries could occur. It is common for a pulled groin muscle to happen when this imbalance occurs.

While a groin pull might be felt on the thigh or up near the crotch, keep in mind that the adductors originate on the pubic bone. This means that a tight muscle could pull on your pubic bone, causing instability or disfunction in the pubis.

Restoring or Maintaining Health

If you have an injury, give it time to heal before beginning stretching and strengthening. I was once told that tightness is the same thing as weakness. I have found this to be true. Therefore, stretching and strengthening are crucial for the health of these muscles.

The best way to work the adductor group is with Baddha Konasana. Please make sure to follow the directions exactly. When you rotate your head of your femur from your hip socket, your knees will lower. However, when you try to slam your knees to the floor with the force of your arms, you will get a groin injury.

Some other good poses to help you find and work your adductors are Warrior 2, Parsvakonasana, Triangle pose (make sure to really feel your adductors isometrically pull toward each other to avoid injury), and Prasarita Padottanasana.

More Information

For more information, I recommend “The Adductors: What Are The Adductor Muscles?” by David Keil. He has a wonderful yoga anatomy book that I enjoy. That book is called Functional Anatomy of Yoga. Here is a link to buy it on Amazon. When you buy this book through this link, I earn a small commission.

Another book that I find helpful is The Concise Book of Muscles by Chris Jarmey. I used lots of information from his book while writing this post. The link I have provided is to an updated version of the book I have. It appears to be a very thorough update, although I have not personally looked through the whole book.

What do you do to keep your adductors healthy? Let us know in the comments below.

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Sarah Stockett is STOTT certified in Matwork, Reformer, Cadillac, Chair, & Barrels, Injuries & Special Populations, and CORE; a Yoga Alliance RYT-200; and has studied Active Isolated Stretching. When she is not trying to discover the best exercises to get rid of pain, she likes watching movies and travelling with her family.

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