Do your knees start to cave in on heavy squats? On heavy pulls? When you load up to do a max height box jump? Do you feel like no matter how many times your coach yells at you, “Knees out!”, you just can’t seem to get the job done? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then your problem lies in the most forgotten muscle group of the legs: the adductors. The adductors are composed of the adductor brevis, the adductor longus, the adductor magnus, the pectineous, and the gracilis. With the exception of the gracilis, they all originate on the pubis and ischium bones, and insert on the medial, posterior surface of the femur (the gracilis inserts just below the medial condyle of the tibia). Here at CrossFit West, I see this imbalance like the plague. Many people have built up their quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes, but have completely underdeveloped adductors (myself included). Weak adductors can lead to a variety of problems, including strains to the groin and persistent knee pain in the form of patellofemoral syndrome.
So what can we do? Well, there are a couple of exercises that can be done to strengthen this muscle group (and no, I’m not talking about the machine at Globo Gyms that all the girls use. Yeah ladies, I know you know the inner thigh blaster machine I’m talking about!). The first is a sumo deadlift. The sumo deadlift starts with a wide stance with the hands inside the feet. This exercise can help tremendously in attacking those adductors. Many athletes are actually more comfortable deadlifting in this position. Another exercise that can be done is a sumo squat (wide stance squats). You can even perform these squats as air squats. Right away you will feel these squats working the adductors. Of course, keeping these muscles stretched and foam rolled will help tremendously as well, as many of us also tend to have tight adductors. As a coach, I would recommend staying after class and performing a couple sets of each exercise. Gradually you will build these muscles up. The bottom line is that if you have weak adductors, you will most likely end up compensating by caving the knees in, and this can lead to chronic problems. Remember that even though we strive for huge glutes and VMOs, those little adductors are muscles that must not be ingnored!
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