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 from being stretched and released.
In addition, with all the sitting that is prevalent in our culture, the adductors can get very tight even if you haven’t actively worked them out. Tight adductors can bring a feeling of discomfort around the thighs. 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 of how to increase your adductor flexibility.
Note that I am not a personal trainer or a health specialist, I am just someone who enjoys researching and sharing information on such topics.
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 rather than your adductor muscle as a whole.
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 (Pectineus & 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 (Longus & 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 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.
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.
Need a foam roller? – Read: 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 (such as the Rumble 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 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 you want further release you try using a Beastie Ball, although I would not recommend this at the beginning.
It’s very hard for me to explain how to do this without a video, however, I am very fortunate to have found a video of a similar release technique using a lacrosse ball and a bench.
Watch the video below to understand how to use this technique.
I find my ‘Yoga Block’ method to be more effective and easier to get into position. However, try both methods and see which one works for you.
There is no right or wrong way to do this but as the video shows you will want to move around a lot to find where your tender spots are. Once you’ve found a tender spot relax onto it and use the weight of your leg to apply pressure.
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.
EDIT: After a year on I have tested and now found some tools that are much better at releasing the adductors than the methods above. These are by using a specialised massage gun or a tool known as the PSO-RITE.
A massage gun can help release tight muscles in hard to reach places using ‘percussive power.’ Find out more about these devices on our page: The Best Massage Guns
The PSO-RITE is a tool shaped in such a way that it can easily dig into hard to reach places.
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 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.
Occasionally when I hold a certain position in an adductor stretch I find I get a sharp pinching pain somewhere along my adductors. I’ve found that the best solution is to go back and do more myofascial release work in the area where you feel the pain.
If the pain keeps returning even after you’ve done more release techniques, you may need to try different kinds of myofascial release tools until you find a tool or method that works for you.
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 pushed 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 of your back.
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 the stretch toward the back of the thigh more.
If you have tight adductors then it’s likely this muscle will be tight as well and may also require releasing and stretching (I know my Medial Hamstring is just as problematic as my adductors).
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.