When I first became a physical therapist, it seemed like all the rage in fitness and rehab was about strengthening one specific muscle or muscle group. For example, I would hear about the VMO (Vastus Medialis Oblique) muscle and how “vital” it was for proper tracking of the knee cap when squatting. Or how the glutes were “key” to an effective golf swing. Or how the rhomboids had to be “strong” for good posture. In some cases these theories proved to have some level of validity. But in many cases they became outdated theories and a sign of limited evidence. I believe the primary reason for this was that a muscle in isolation can only do so much. It’s far more important to integrate that muscle into the neuromuscular system as a whole, to allow for optimal movement health.
Today, after practicing physical therapy for nearly a decade, I have come to realize that the hip adductors (inner thigh muscles) are some of the most under-appreciated and under-assessed muscles of the body. This is probably because we didn't learn how to test them functionally in PT school.
Traditional "manual muscle testing" looks at how each muscle works in isolation. But this isn't how the human body actually moves in real life. For every functional movement, we must engage many muscles along a kinetic chain. Futhermore, we must have adequate neuromuscular control to support our joints through these motions. I’m talking about proper activation of the deep core stabilizers (pelvic floor, diaphragm, transverse abdominis, deep hip rotators, rotator cuff, etc.).
Before I show you how I test the hip adductors, let me first explain why they are so important.
For efficient movement, we must have balance between our inner thigh and outer thigh. The outer thigh (lateral chain) muscles play an integral role in stabilizing the hip, pelvis and spine during weight-bearing activities, especially when standing on one leg. But if the hip adductors are not performing properly in their role as the antagonist muscle, this stability can be compromised. Eventually other muscles will take over (compensate) which can lead to pain and joint dysfunction.
I frequently see this muscle imbalance among athletes who spend too much time running on a traditional treadmill. Their feet don't have to grip the tread for appropriate stability. Whereas running outdoors on non-moving surfaces forces the adductors to do their job to stabilize the hip and pelvis.
Besides changing up your running surface, this does not simply mean you should start using the 1990's Thigh Master equipment, or doing a bunch of repetitions on the seated hip adductor machine at your local gym. Those old school exercises only work the muscles in isolation. So they probably won’t do too much in terms of rebalancing your body.
Instead, I use the Redcord suspension system to test and treat the hip adductors in a “closed kinetic chain” environment. This means the muscles are working as part of a chain from head to toe, making it a full body stability challenge.
Here are two videos demonstrating hip adduction exercises with bungee assistance at the waist:
If you suspect your hip adductors are holding you back from feeling, moving or performing at your absolute best, contact me at Activcore Bernardsville to get help now!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author, unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.