Stretching exercises, in general, may alleviate muscular tension that restricts the range of motion by increasing muscle length, or by expanding the space that a muscle spans between its origin and insertion. When done with good technique and form, stretching may produce several benefits. A specific stretching activity that targets the hip adductors is the adductor stretch.
There are many variations of stretching exercises for the hip adductors. These stretches may be either dynamic or static exercises. However, all of these focus on the adductor muscles, namely the pectineus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, and gracilis. These muscles all function in daily activities, postural control, and sporting activities.
Benefits that may be gained from stretching the adductor muscles include improving balance and stability, deepening squats, increasing flexibility, and improving athletic performance. However, apart from the practicality of doing adductor stretches for daily and sporting activities, these exercises may also aid in delivery during pregnancy.
The muscles that are found in the medial compartment of the thigh are known as the hip adductors. This collection of muscles includes the pectineus, the adductor longus, the gracilis, the adductor brevis, and the adductor magnus.
The primary motion that this group of muscles produces, as its name suggests, is adduction of the thigh at the hip joint. Adduction of the thigh refers to the process in which the thigh is pulled toward or beyond the median plane.
These muscles originate from the pubic and ischial bones and insert into the femur, more specifically on the posteromedial aspect. Most of the adductor muscles are innervated by the obturator nerve. Only a small part of the adductor magnus is supplied by the tibial nerve, and the pectineus is innervated by the femoral nerve (but sometimes by the accessory obturator nerve when this nerve is present).
In a wide variety of sporting activities, the hip adductor muscle group is called upon to contribute significantly to the range of motion as well as the stability of the hip joint. The hip adductors maintain the pelvis and lower extremities when the body is in the stance phase of walking or running.
In a standing position, they also help to contribute to postural stability. In addition, they help with other hip motions, such as flexion and rotation of the hip.
The range of motion across joints is often limited by a number of factors, one of which is muscle tightness. This phenomenon is caused by tense muscles resulting from strains, injuries, and a sedentary lifestyle, among others. There are two mechanisms through which muscle tension increases: active and passive mechanisms.
When taken in the context of fitness, active mechanisms are more important causes of muscle tension because these are caused by muscle spasms or contractions. In order to address the muscle tension that results from active mechanisms, stretching is often incorporated into workout regimens. This results in an increase in muscle length and a reduction in tension.
The reduced tension in the muscle increases the range of motion of the joints. As a result, appropriate movement patterns are established, and the risks of muscular strain and injury are reduced. This translates to adductor stretches being beneficial for something as simple as standing and walking to more complex activities such as dancing.
The key muscles addressed by the adductor stretch are the pectineus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, and gracilis; hence, this practice is beneficial in reducing tension in the medial thigh. Additionally, flexibility is improved by this exercise, which aids in deepening squats during workouts.
The flexibility of the hip also aids in delivery during pregnancy. This is because hip flexibility widens the space for the passage of the infant. Hence, women may consider performing adductor stretches during pregnancy.
Because the adductor muscles have a function in balance and stability, stretching the adductors may lead to an improvement in these areas through the elimination of muscle tension and muscle imbalance. Improving balance and stability also leads to ease of movement, a decrease in the risk of falls and injuries, and enhanced athletic ability.
Sporting activities that may benefit from adductor stretches include football, soccer, swimming, and other sports that involve running, jumping, and sudden changes in movement. A 2009 review states that insufficient adductor muscle flexibility has been recognized as a contributory factor to injuries sustained by soccer players.
Because of contradictory findings, there is a lot of debate over the timing of stretching. Nevertheless, the most current research seems to indicate that static stretching should be done as part of the cooling down process, whereas dynamic stretching should be done before a workout.
Because dynamic stretching resembles the motions employed in other sports and has immediate favorable effects on a person's physical performance, it has been advised that dynamic stretching be included as part of a warm-up routine before working out or playing a sport.
A research that was conducted in 2018 by Opplert and Babault found that dynamic stretching led to a rise in muscle temperature owing to the frequent active contraction of the muscles, which assisted in the process of warming the muscles up.
Because it aids in the relaxation of muscles and returns the body to its normal state, static stretching is best performed during the cooldown period that follows an intense exercise or sports competition.
Although improvements in flexibility and range of motion are seen with static stretching, it has limited use in warm-up routines for sports involving activities such as running and jumping due to its deleterious influence on power and strength performance. However, activities that require a certain degree of flexibility, such as gymnastics and dancing, might still benefit from warm-up regimens that include static stretching.
The majority of individuals mistakenly believe that stretching serves as a warm-up in and of itself, however, warm-ups are necessary prior to stretching. An increased body temperature before stretching enables muscles to produce more blood flow and be more flexible.
Ideally, low-intensity activities can be done for 5-10 minutes to warm up the body for stretching exercises like running, taking short walks, and jumping rope, among others. These exercises engage muscles to loosen them and boost heart rate, which will promote blood flow. Massaging the muscle groups before stretching can also be an option as this also provides the same benefits as the activities mentioned above.
This stretch enables greater active movement and stretching of the hips than would normally be possible. Dynamic stretches, such as this one, require a high level of balance and coordination to accomplish. Because it is a dynamic action, it is excellent for getting the body ready to undertake exercises or take part in athletic activities.
To begin, find a nearby wall or other comparable support and stand tall and balanced, supported by the hands. Kick one leg as far to the side as you are able, and afterward, draw that same leg across the midline of the body as far as possible. Continue to abduct and adduct the leg rhythmically until a set of 10 repetitions is completed. Repeat on the other side.
It is important to keep the torso still and pull in the abs to keep a tight core. Move slowly and deliberately, and move the legs by contracting and relaxing the muscles. A deeper stretch may be achieved by gaining momentum and allowing the leg to go further than its previous range of motion (for as long as only a stretch sensation is felt in the pain-free range).
Standing side lunges are a type of bodyweight exercise that works multiple muscles, such as the quadriceps, abductors, glutes, adductors, and hamstrings. As this is a dynamic stretch, it is an excellent movement to develop dynamic balance, stability, and strength for the aforementioned muscles, as well as increasing flexibility.
To perform a standing side lunge from a standing position, lunge sideways to the right with the right leg bending the right knee at 90 degrees while keeping the left leg straight and place both hands on top of the thighs and hinge over slightly from the hips while keeping the back flat. It is recommended to hold the stretch for about 30 seconds, then switch legs and repeat.
To achieve a deeper stretch, bend the knee at a greater angle but only do it by gradually increasing the angle from 90 degrees to avoid injuries. Take note to avoid a bouncing movement and over-extending the legs to avoid unnecessary muscle strain.
The butterfly stretch is a seated hip opening exercise that offers benefits and is available for all practitioners of different fitness levels, even beginners. It is effective in improving the flexibility of the hips and relieving muscle tightness due to various activities such as strenuous workouts and prolonged sitting, among others.
To begin, sit up tall with the soles of the feet pressed together, and the knees dropped to the sides as they can comfortably go. Pull the abdominals gently inward and lean forward from the hips. Grasp the feet with both hands and carefully pull the upper body forward until a stretch is felt throughout the inner thighs, hips, and lower back. Hold the position for about 30 seconds before releasing, then repeat.
The frog stretch is an excellent pose that stretches multiple muscles as it opens the hips and groin muscles by creating an external rotation of the hips from the pelvis. It specifically targets muscles such as the hip flexors, inner thighs, groin muscles, and core.
Generally, the frog stretch is safe for all fitness levels, but if there are any knee, groin, or hip injuries or discomfort, it is better to avoid this posture. It is also important to note that pregnant women, especially those in their first trimester, should avoid this exercise.
To perform the frog pose, start with the hands and knees on the ground. Take the knees as wide as the current flexibility allows, point the toes outward, and open the lower leg wider than the knees. To deepen the stretch, move the hips back towards the heels and bend the arms to come down onto the forearms. Hold this pose for up to 1 minute, or with practice, it can be held for as long as 3-5 minutes.
The pancake split stretch is considered an ultimate mobility stretch that improves the hips, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and adductor muscles in terms of flexibility. It is a difficult stretch, especially for inflexible individuals, so building up to the pancake split stretch with the use of other, more basic stretches or poses is recommendable.
To perform the pancake split stretch, begin by sitting on the floor with the legs straight and bringing both legs as wide apart as possible with the toes pointing up. Then, while maintaining a neutral straight back, reach the hands forward and lean the torso forward by hinging on the hips. Hold this position for 20–30 seconds and repeat.
Stretching exercises, in general, may alleviate muscular tension that restricts the range of motion by increasing muscle length. Adductor stretches are designed to improve flexibility and range of motion in the adductor muscles, which all function in daily activities, postural control, and sporting activities.
Football, soccer, swimming, and other sports that involve sudden changes in movement may benefit from dynamic stretching. Static stretching, on the other hand, has limited use due to its negative influence on power and strength performance, but this practice is still beneficial in reducing tension in the medial thigh and improving flexibility.
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Kim H, Nam YS. Variation of pectineus muscle forming a hiatus. Anat Sci Int. 2021;96(3):481-484. doi:10.1007/s12565-020-00593-5
Opplert J, Babault N. Acute Effects of Dynamic Stretching on Muscle Flexibility and Performance: An Analysis of the Current Literature. Sports Med. 2018;48(2):299-325. doi:10.1007/s40279-017-0797-9