Unfortunately the adductors get a bad name in powerlifting, but no one fully understands why this is.
It is commonly coached "knees out" on everything, now I’m not to say this is wrong, but we go out of our way to beat this cue to death on our lifts; we are all guilty of excessive banded side steps at one stage of our training. Adduction isn't really seen as a thing that we do in powerlifting. This can be said for other muscles/movements in the body, we don’t really "use it" in our powerlifts, but doesn’t mean it isn’t important to keep it working so we can keep things functioning correctly and "balanced" in the body.
I’m always going on about lower traps... do they really lift anything for us in the 3 big lifts? No. Do they help us hold position, maintain stability, allowing our other big muscles to perform their tasks correctly? 100% they do. Therefore, do we still need to train lower traps? I’ll leave you to stew on that.
With that point being made, hopefully I can clear some things up as to why adductors aren’t just a muscle that pulls your knees in when you squat.
Quick Anatomy 101 - Adductors are a group of muscles - adductor magnus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, pectineus, gracilis, Obturator externus. The adductors attach from your femur to your hips, assisting in stabilising them. The primary role is obviously hip adduction, which if you think of the hip adduction machine or "good girl" machine in a commercial gym.
Some of the adductor muscles also lend a hand to hip flexion, and the biggest of the adductor muscles; magnus - is a really powerful hip extensor in certain positions which happens to be at the bottom of a deep Squat. If you have ever done properly executed, high volume squatting, especially with a slightly wider stance, you will know what I mean and are familiar with the ever so painful task of getting off the toilet.
Adductors, along with the glutes, and the quadratus lumborum (QLs), play a large role in frontal plane hip stability. Or shifting side to side, think lateral hip shifting when squatting. So you can start to see why training them in isolation, through one plane of movement on a machine is missing the big picture when our goal is to squat and deadlift heavy things.
If we are doing single leg work and squatting perfectly, they shouldn’t really need A LOT of attention...
However, if they aren't doing their job correctly and your technique isn’t perfect, we could still have issues. We want to train your adductors to work alongside with the glutes, QLs, and all of the other "hip muscles". This is how we use them in our sport.... unless you’re job is squishing giant watermelons between your thighs of course.
So, going off topic (or totally on topic) now, BREATHING! Something I ramble on to all our clients about, and I’m sure they are totally sick of me. But until the point is made and things are understood and implemented correctly, my tangents are going to continue. #sorrynotsorry
To extremely slow this shit down for you, breathing is life right? It’s also very vindictive of your rib, spine and hip position. Upon deep inhalation and exhalation your ribs, spine and hips move, you may not notice on day to day life, until you stand motionless and practice now… Are you doing it?
For example, you inhale - ribs flare - spine extends, sacrum moves and hips rotate accordingly, as you exhale ribs depress - spine moves back to neutral - hips move into their/your neutral position. This is in a perfect world. However as powerlifters we are always extremely extended and this has to do with the lifts we perform. So you see a big fella walking around with his chest high and lats flared, he’s either an ego moron or extremely extended, therefore affecting the position of your ribs and the chain previously discussed. So if your breathing is off, your rib, spine and hip position could be jeopardized. But I feel this baby talk and will be discussed deeper in another article.
Now what has this got anything to do with the adductors you may ask, WELL!
As stated, the position of your ribs has a lot to do with the position of your hips and therefore the adductors. So this blog can be a complete waste of your time because how to treat your issue is simply this… IT DEPENDS!
- It depends on your breathing
- It depends on your rib structure
- It depends on your spine limitations
- It depends on your hip position
- It depends if your adductors are even an issue to begin with.
However I’m going to give you a hypothetical, just cause I don’t want to totally waste your time reading this long ass article.
So, in the situation where you work a 9-5 office job, limiting you to a desk. It is extremely common that you may have had tight adductors for a long period of time, meaning very limited range of motion, as well as a list of other limitations in hips that stem from this.... so, how do we go about it?
First of all, some simple stretching - think frog stretches or variations of, along with some self myofascial release work (Ball, KB) can help TEMPORARILY to "free" them up a bit before a session.
With this potentially new range of motion we have from those, you would go into some simple drills like a half kneeling drop, some of the PRI (Postural Restoration Institute) breathing drills, we would also be looking at some hip rotation deficiencies, so time to assess these.
I’d be almost certain they would exist with the adductors the way they are, and then progressing onto drills with more moving parts, like a single leg RDL and low level variations of squats to get them doing their jobs correctly. From here we will slowly work our way up the Squat and Hinge progressions until the adductors want to play their part in the compound lifts. Sounds simple right? Unfortunately it isn’t really, you need to be committed to do the boring little things regularly enough for them to stick!
"Why haven’t you done this already Will? You’re the shittest coach ever" you may be thinking. Unfortunately not every client that starts with Nexus Performance in an “off season”, or is willing to start with the little things immediately. Because, as I said, it’s boring!
For those with competition coming up and regularly ongoing preps it can make progression of these issues a much slower course. At the end of the day it’s powerlifting, we have to barbell squat so working on regressions and implementing these particular drills can be difficult to program all together whilst pushing peak weights. If you’re in an “off season” NOW is the time to take advantage.
As I don’t want to speak in absolutes this is just one of the many examples we could implement to help treat your problem, however if you aren’t doing these things correctly you may as well not be doing them at all.