I’ve always had tight adductor muscles throughout my life. However, it’s only up until recently that I’ve decided to take the time to tackle this issue seriously.
The adductors simply aren’t as glamorous to stretch as the hamstrings, calves or quads, and some of us may not even know what the adductors are!
For this reason, it is common for the adductors to become neglected which often leaves a feeling of tightness along the inner thighs.
Not only that, but it’s also possible that tight adductors can lead to knee, hip and back pain.
Therefore the adductors should not be overlooked or ignored.
In this post, I’ll briefly describe what the adductors are and why they can be hard to stretch.
I will also lay out a plan on how to increase your adductor flexibility by laying out some of the best adductor stretches you can try from home.
What are the Adductor Muscles?
The adductors, often referred to as your groin muscles, are a group of muscles that sit around your inner thigh area.
These set of muscles are attached to your pelvis and connect to various places along your thigh bone (femur).
Their responsibility is to pull your thigh (femur) inwards towards the midline of your body.
The adductors are made up of the following muscles:
- Adductor Brevis
- Adductor Longus
- Adductor Magnus
The point of this section is not to get scientific and over-complexed, but to highlight that your tightness could originate from any one of these smaller muscles being tight.
Abduction vs Adduction
Do not get these two terms confused. The topic of this post is the ADDuctors, not the ABductors. Notice the subtle difference.
Whilst the ADDuctors pull your limbs towards the midline of your body, the ABductors do the opposite to push your limb away from the midline.
One easy way to help you remember the differences is that Abduct is ‘taking away’ from the body, much like being abducted (taken away) by aliens.
How to Gain Flexibility in the Adductors
As you have seen the adductors are a set of muscles rather than a single muscle.
This makes it more difficult to stretch as you have to incorporate a number of different stretches to hit each particular muscle.
For example, to stretch the adductors muscles (adductor Pectineus & adductor Brevis) nearer the top of the thigh you will need a stretch that you can feel around the groin area, whereas the other adductors that run all the way down (adductor Longus & adductor Magnus) the thigh require a different kind of a stretch.
To become more flexible in the adductors you will need to find stretches that cover all the adductor muscles.
One of my biggest problems is that I thought the adductor was just one muscle and assumed that doing one adductor stretch would solve the tightness.
I’m sure you’ve come across that stretch known as the ‘pancake’ where you have your body leaning forward with your legs split wide in front of you.
If you are inflexible in the adductors (tight hamstrings and lower back can also play a part), attempting this stretch can be particularly demoralising.
You may get your legs wide, but as you try to reach your toes your lower back curves and you get nowhere.
Rather than go straight into this stretch I’ve found it’s best to work on simpler stretches first.
However, before that, an even better place to start is by performing myofascial release (self-massage) which helps release any knots that contribute to tightness.
1) Releasing the Adductors
The adductors have proved to be the most challenging part of my body to release via self-massage.
I’ve tried all kinds of tools but only until recently begun to have found any success.
If you’ve tried already but found little relief then don’t worry you’re not alone.
Most ‘experts’ will mention techniques such as using a foam roller, however, I’ve never found this effective.
Below is a video of the traditional way to release the adductors using a foam roller in case you want to try it, whilst the video above uses a combination of a foam roller and a muscle roller stick.
Related: Best muscle roller sticks
To foam roll your adductors you would place a foam roller underneath your inner thigh whilst you’re facing down towards your mat.
Using your body weight, you would roll from the top of your knee inward toward the middle of your thigh and then back again.
Related: Best foam rollers
If this doesn’t work for you, you can try taking it up a notch by using a massage ball. In this case, the TriggerPoint 5-Inch massage ball (which is larger than a lacrosse ball) could work in this situation.
As I’ve said before, I have never found this technique to be effective even if I use a very or aggressive and dense foam roller or a massage ball as I need relief higher up the thigh.
The next section will show you how to find a deeper release.
Releasing the Hard to Reach Adductors (Pectineus & Brevis)
If the release technique shown in the video above didn’t work for you, then it is likely that you may need to smash the adductors higher up the inner thigh, as was in my case.
Most likely the adductors in question will be the Pectineus and Brevis.
To get some idea of where these two adductor muscles are positioned see the 3D images below.
As you can see, these adductors are quite high up and well protected by fleshy areas of the thigh.
This is why using a foam roller to target these areas has been pretty ineffective for me.
If a foam roller didn’t work for you, then watch the video above which shows you how to use a bench and a lacrosse ball to release the adductors.
If you don’t have a bench I’ve found the simplest and cheapest setup to release the abductors is to place a lacrosse ball onto a yoga block which helps elevate the ball higher to dig in deeper into the groin muscles.
The only issue with this setup is that it’s quite east for this setup to topple over so it can be frustrating at times.
If you have a bit of money to spend and are serious about releasing your adductors there are better options.
The first is by using a PSO-RITE massage tool.
Related: PSO-RITE review
The second and more expensive way is to use a massage gun, which is a handheld electric massager which can help loosen up tight muscles effectively.
Related: Best massage guns
There is no right or wrong way to release the abductors, but you’ll want to dig around the inner thighs and groin muscles until you find a tender spot.
Once you’ve found a tender spot relax onto it and hold it for at least 30 seconds.
Be warned if you’ve never used this method it will likely prove to be very painful!
You may find that you’ll use this method for one day then find it too painful to do it again for the next couple of days.
As you find new spots this cycle of release then recover will likely continue. With enough attempts, the pain should subside over time.
2) How to Stretch the Adductors
As I’ve found with my own adductors, feeling them lengthen requires more tweaking of a stretch than many of the other muscle groups.
In other words, if I am in a traditional hip adductor stretch, I have to move around, shift my body weight from side to side and tweak my positions before I feel a stretch that works for me.
When stretching your adductors, traditional stretches may not work as you can be tight in so many different areas of the adductors.
Find what works for you.
This is an important part of lengthening your adductors.
The videos in this section include stretches that you can tweak to your own liking. The video above shows a standing adductor stretch you can try.
Similarly, the video above shows a kneeling adductors stretch which you can also tweak by rocking forwards and back.
In both cases, once you’ve found a tight area, hold your position, relax and breathe.
Slowly Improving? More Advanced Adductor Stretches
Once you’ve started to gain a little more flexibility in your adductors you can begin to attempt some more stretches that require a greater level of flexibility or begin to target specific adductors muscles.
Adductor Magnus (Frog Stretch)
The Frog stretch requires a decent level of flexibility in your hips as well as you adductors before you will be able to perform this.
This stretch is good for working on the Abductor Magnus muscle.
Long Adductor Stretch (Pancake)
This is the kind of stretch where attempting it can leave you a little disheartened especially if you have a lot of tightness in the adductors.
Although I have included this stretch in the advanced section, beginners can try this too.
When performing this stretch you want to make sure that you never compromise your form just so you can get your head lower to the ground.
Keep your lower back straight and spine long even if your torso barely moves forward an inch.
As you gain flexibility in your adductors you’ll slowly be able to move more forward as you practice this stretch.
This video includes two stretches for the adductors (one of them we have already seen above ‘Pancake’).
To do the first stretch, sit down with your feet out in front of you with the soles of your feet together.
Slowly bring your chest forward towards your toes and use your elbows to push the legs out.
Again be sure to maintain a long spine and prevent rounding your back in order to keep your back straight.
Consider the Medial Hamstrings too
To add a little bit of a different feel to your kneeling adductor stretch, instead of having your outstretched foot positioned flat on the floor you can also try pointing your toes upwards.
This subtle movement takes it from being an adductor stretch to a medial hamstring stretch and you’ll feel a stretch toward the back of the thigh more than a traditional adductor stretch.
If you have tight adductors then it’s likely this muscle will be tight as well and may also require releasing and stretching.
Stretch Often to see Your Adductor Flexibility Increase
The more you stretch and release the adductors the more flexibility you’ll gain over time.
If you’re like me and have spent a good part of your life without ever stretching them then it will take longer before you see results.
However, if you keep at it you will see improvements.
Stretching your adductors is important as they can become very tight the more you remain in a seated position.
By taking proper care of your adductors, you can increase your mobility, flexibility, athletic performance as well as helping avoid potential injuries in the future.
If you feel that you not only have tightness in your adductors but also around your hips, be sure to add some stretches for your hip flexors for a more complete stretching routine.