Hip adductor stretches and mobility exercises are a major component of hip and lower back rehab and flexibility programs. Here are a few great options to help target this critical (and very commonly tight) muscle group.
Adductor Roller Release
Self myofascial release techniques utilizing foam rollers, lacrosse balls, or massage sticks have become popular in recent years. While there is still some debate as to the utility and best practices of these techniques, these practices do appear to help improve mobility. This effect seems to be most pronounced when combined with more traditional stretching and ROM exercises.
Therefore, utilizing some form of self myofascial release prior to the performance of other mobility exercises can be a great addition to an overall mobility program. Here’s a simple way to do this for the adductors.
Begin on the floor with the leg flexed to your side and your inner thigh resting on a foam roller. Slide back and forth so the roller moves up an down along the inner thigh. Feel where the tight spots are and hover over those spots a little more for a better release.
Be sure to keep the leg relaxed. You want the roller to sink into the muscle. Slowly move back and forth over the roller for 1-2 minutes.
While the foam roller is probably the easiest and most effective way to get at the adductors, another option is performing a self-release with a massage stick. While this is note quite as effective (hard to get as deep on the tissue), this is a option for those patients who have trouble getting getting onto the floor or into the position needed for the roller.
Standing Lateral Lunge Adductor Stretch
The lateral lunge stretch is one of the most classic adductor stretches. One of the reasons I like this stretch is it’s easy to do, and the patient does not need to get on the floor to do it. That means they can do it a bunch of times throughout the day.
But there are a few things to keep in mind to make this stretch as effective as possible.
First, begin in a standing position with a wide stance. The biggest mistake most people make with this stretch is not getting their feet wide enough. The key is to start with almost all of the slack out of the adductors. This way only a very small movement is needed to generate a stretch.
The other major error with this stretch is that as the adductors pull tight they often pull the pelvis out of position. To prevent this it is often helpful to hold a posterior pelvic tilt and abdominal brace during the stretch.
Once the right starting posture is met, bend one knee and slide the hips to one side. This should create a stretch on the inside of the opposite thigh. Hold the stretch for 1-2 seconds then return to the starting position to release the stretch (you can also increase the hold time if needed).
Adductor Lunge Stretch
In addition to limiting hip abduction, tight adductors (especially the adductor magnus) can restrict hip flexion. When this is the case this “Adductor Lunge” stretch can be a great way to help restore this motion.
Begin kneeling on the floor in a lunge position. Bend your trunk forward to bring the outside of your shoulder towards the inside of your lead knee. Now lunge forward so your hips slide forward. You should feel a stretch along the inside of your upper leg (on the forward leg). Hold the stretch for 2-3 seconds then release. Perform 10-15 reps.
Adductor AIS Release
Active Isolated Stretching (AIS) utilizes the contraction of opposing muscles groups in combination with passive assistance to achieve a deeper stretch. I often used these stretches with muscle imbalances where there is a tight agonist along with a weak antagonist. In this case, when the adductors are tight and the lateral glutes and weak / inhibited.
To perform an AIS stretch for the adductors begin in a supine position with a stiff strap around one foot. The other end of the strap is held in the hand. Now actively slide the foot outwards. The key is to SLIDE the foot, don’t lift it or the hip flexors will contract. At the end of the motion gently pull the foot further outwards with the strap. You should feel a stretch in the adductors and a contraction in the abductors.
Hold for 2 seconds then slide the leg back in. Perform 10-15 repetitions.