Q and A: Training the Adductors
Question #1: What are your thoughts on training the adductors with cables and ankle straps?
A: It’s not a completely dumb idea (you can make an argument that everything has a time and place), it’s just a mostly dumb idea.
Question #2: Another trainer at my gym seems to do this here and there with his athletes lying on their back, legs spread eagle in the air with cables attached to the ankles and they open and close their legs.
I don’t do these exercises, and I covered one of his guys and he even said “I know you don’t usually train the groin/adductors, but have client A do this”.
To me it looks a bit silly, but then again I have my clients do cable pullthrough’s and every trainer starts cracking jokes about it. Wouldn’t single legged exercises automatically train the adductors to some extent? Is this enough?
A: First an anatomy lesson. The adductors are actually more of a “complex” consisting of the adductor magnus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, pectineus, and gracilis. Sure their main role is, well, adduction, but some muscles also play a role in (breaking) hip flexion (pectineus and adductor brevis), as well as hip extension (adductor magnus…which is also called the 3rd hamstring), respectively.
In addition, and something that’s usually ignored altogether, are that the adductors (and by the same token, the abductors) are just as important in terms of frontal plane stability than they are in actually initiating movement.
In other words, particularly in single legged stance, the two – along with the quadratus lumborum – form what’s called the lateral sub-system and are key stabilizers of the femur and pelvis in the frontal plane (controlling whether or not the hip hikes or the knee caves in).
Secondly, while I “guess” what you described above is a slight step above one of those archaic seated adductor/abductor machines (or, what I like to call the naughty/nice machines), why anyone would think that plopping someone down spread eagle style on the floor to solely train the adductors is beyond me. Seems like a complete waste of time, actually.
Might as well grab a shake weight while we’re at at!
Also, training adduction (or abduction) alone ignores several key roles of muscles. Very few of them have only one function, so it’s borderline laughable to force them into a single plane of motion. As alluded to above, when you move in the sagittal plane with free weights (in a single leg stance), you’re stabilizing in the frontal plane, but this isn’t present when you’re on the floor showcasing your unmentionables for the entire world to see.
I’d much rather see someone perform more “bang for your exercise buck exercises” like slideboard lateral lunges or a 1-legged RDL and actually train the adductors in a more “functional” manner.
Some other random thoughts:
1. Utilizing machines (which force trainees into a fixed plane of motion) – as well as that spread eagle whatchamacalit described above – completely neglects the glutes, which is a mistake if you ask me. Most people have woefully weak glutes, and going out of one’s way to ignore them is a disservice.
Now, of course, I have no idea what else he is doing with his clientele, and I have to assume he’s incorporating things like deadlifts, squats, hip thrusts, etc into the mix to target the glutes. If so, great…..he’s a little less douchy in my eyes.
Even so, I just feel that there are so many other options at his disposal than what you described above. Then again, it’s not the end of the world. I’ve seen (and heard) worse.
2. The adductor complex is a really grimy, nasty, dense area of muscle. In particular, with regards to athletes such as hockey and soccer players, there’s an increased risk of “sports hernia,” which generally manifests due to poor tissue quality in around the vicinity. Adding even more stress and load to an area that’s already stiff/short/all sorts of FUBAR’d is just not a smart idea.
This is speculation, obviously, and definitely not set in stone as there are a lot of other factors involved….but an important point to consider.
3. If he’s targeting the adductors, he better sure as shit be training the abductors, too. The two groups co-contract in order to maintain frontal plane stability. When one is dominating the other – in this case, the adductors PWNING the abductors (along with some other weaknesses), the positioning of the femur will be compromised, and as a result, the knee will cave in.
When working with athletes – particularly female athletes – this is important to note as significant adduction is one of the mechanisms behind ACL injuries (the other two being internal rotation and flexion).
All I’m saying is to be cognizant. Training adduction isn’t wrong per se, I just don’t like the idea of going out of my way to train adduction all by its lonesome self.
I mean, some people think Nicholas Cage is an A-list actor. I think my toaster can out act him any day of the week. To each his own I suppose.