The thigh gap phenomenon has sent many a woman racing to the gym to work on her inner thighs, but adductor work isn’t just for women: Men, too, should be concerned about this oft-overlooked area, not only for improving overall leg symmetry, but also to prevent debilitating groin injury.
For most guys, their emphasis lies in training the glutes and other muscles that contribute to hip abduction, performing squats, lunges and the like. However, if you don’t also train your adductors — the inner-thigh muscles — your risk of suffering a groin injury increases. In fact, according to one study of professional ice hockey players, athletes were 17 times more likely to sustain a groin injury if their adductor strength was less than 80 percent of their abductor strength.
Furthermore, a 2015 systematic review published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that poor hip adductor strength was one of the most common risk factors for groin injury in sports, specifically, when the strength of the adductors was less than that of the abductors.
Although many personal trainers claim that that seated hip adductor machine — yes, the one that looks like a gynecological chair — is a waste of time, research shows that this machine is equally as effective as a standing hip adduction exercise with a band or a cable. In addition, those who claim that squats and lunges are a super-effective way to train your adductors are also incorrect: A review investigating the barbell squat found that adductor muscle activity measured in a variety of squats and lunges was relatively low when compared to adductor activity measured in exercises that focused primarily on hip adduction.
Bottom line: Time to work on closing the injury gap with some inner-thigh-targeting moves. Implement one or both of these two exercises into your leg workouts toward the end of your session. Shoot for three or four sets of 10 to 15 reps, moving through your full range of motion while maintaining control.
Standing Cable Hip Adduction
Attach an ankle cuff to a low cable pulley and stand sideways to the machine. Wrap the cuff around the ankle closest to the machine and stand about an arm’s length away from the base, allowing your leg to open to the side while keeping your toes and knee pointing forward. You can hold lightly onto the machine for balance, if needed. Keeping your leg straight and your hips square, pull your leg in front of and across your body as far as you can, pause, then slowly return to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.
Seated Hip Adductor Machine
Adjust the machine pads to a comfortable position — i.e. one that does not stretch you out like Jean-Claude Van Damme — and set the weight stack to a light or moderate poundage. Sit upright in the machine and hold the handles on either side of your hips to keep yourself stable. Slowly squeeze your legs together to move the pads inward as far as possible, pause, then return slowly to the start.