Feeling a little weakness in the knees or looking to tone those thighs? For runners, getting the thighs in ship-shape has a purpose beyond just aesthetics. A large portion of us are prone to having weak and underdeveloped muscles in these areas. That can lead to injury.
The hip adductors (better known as the groin or inner thigh muscles) are comprised of a group of five individual muscles: the pectineus, adductor brevis, adductor longus, gracilis and adductor magnus. Together, these muscles are responsible for hip flexion, extension and rotation. They also work to move the leg towards the mid-line so that as we run, we can keep our legs from swinging out to the side and maintain a controlled back and forth motion.
Imbalance between the quadriceps and the adductors is quite common in runners and can lead to injury and knee pain. That’s because weakness allows the kneecap to shift out of place as the knee bends and straightens.
The best way to improve muscular imbalance is through a stretching and strengthening program. As you increase adductor strength, it’s important stretch to prevent muscle stiffness. Below are poses that will help improve adductor flexibility and strength. Incorporate at least one strengthening and one stretch into your post-run recovery routine.
To do this pose, begin on your hands and knees. Step your right leg out to the side with your toes pointing forward. As you inhale raise your body to an upright position and as you exhale bring your hands to your hips. Externally rotate your right leg so that your toes are pointing to the sky. Take a deep inhale and reach your arms up to the sky, and as you exhale bend to the right, feeling a stretch through your inner thigh of the right leg. Hold this pose for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat on the other side.
Step your feet three to four feet apart. Turn your feet out on a 45 degree angle. As you exhale, bend your knees and squat down, lowering your hips. Avoid sticking your bum out by drawing your pelvis forward as you tilt your tailbone down. As you inhale, relax your shoulders and rest your hands on your legs. You should aim to bring your thighs parallel to the floor. Try and hold this pose for 15 to 30 seconds.
Begin on your hands and knees with your wrists directly below your shoulders. Spread your fingers and press your palms into the ground. Step back with both feet so that your body follows a straight line from heels to the crown of your head. From this plank pose, take a deep breath in and as you exhale, roll your heels to the right coming onto the outside edge of your right foot. Stack your left foot on top of your right foot. Bend your left knee and step your left foot forward. To engage your adductors, lift your right leg off the ground and try and keep it raised for three to five breaths. If you are having difficulty getting your right leg off the ground, move your left foot towards the bottom of your mat. To increase the difficult move your left foot towards the top of your mat. Repeat on the other side.
Bridge Pose (with block)
Begin on your back with your knees bent and the soles of your feet pressing into the floor. Your feet should be hip-width apart. Walk your feet in towards your hips so that you can touch your heels with your fingers. Place a block between your knees and gently engage your adductors, squeezing your legs together. Root your hands, forearms and shoulders into the floor. Rotate the outer edges of your arms towards the ground, lifting your chest. Keep your knees over your feet, rotating your thighs inward. Lift your hips towards the ceiling, keeping your head and neck relaxed. Take five to ten breaths in this position. To come out of the pose, gently lower to the ground on an exhalation rolling the spine down slowly. Repeat this exercise.