Do you ever experience outer knee or hip pain from running? One common cause can be from your adductor muscles – or the weakness of them. Repetitive gait movement such as walking, running or biking requires those muscles on the inner portion of your thigh and groin to stabilize your pelvis and knee. When there is an imbalance of strength between your inner outer hip/groin muscles, they have a degenerative imact on performance, posture, and joint health.
Many people overcompensate based on the outer muscles of their hips (the Guteus medius and Gluteus minimus) being so much stronger than their inner thighs (Adductor longus, brevis, and magnus). If you think of this as a balancing scale, the amount of force exerted on one side must equal the amount of force on the other if you want your hips to remain stable while going through the motions.
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Differences in strength lead to biomechanic inefficiency, which can be the root cause of lower back, outer hip, outer knee, or inner hip pain after while walking, running or biking. As more and more miles pile up on improper technique, your joints, tendons, and ligaments get the brunt of stress since the muscles are no longer able to support ideal function. Quite often, that is how a chronic injury occurs; having a leak in energy/efficiency and ignoring the small signals that eventually lead to problems down the road.
In addition to recovery techniques such as deep tissue massage, foam rolling, trigger point release, or heat/cold exposure, isolating the muscles that are under-stimulated is a great way to alleviate pain and improve performance.
My right leg had a wonky gait, my toes were flaring out each step because the muscles on the outer leg and hip were much stronger than their antagonist, pulling my body out of alignment. For months of racing and running, I, a 23-year-old, experienced lower back, outer hip and outer knee pain after any run longer than 2 or 3 miles; what the F! Once identified, I began using these same strengthening movements 1-2 times each week, and continue to use them today. I felt amazing results come with my running, hope these will do the same for you.
Some ways I recommend using them are;
- A warm-up before your training
- At the end of running to strengthen them after the task is done
- Recovery/Rest days as some muscle stimulation
- Even when you are feeling good, more strength is not a bad thing
Side Lying Abduction (Top Leg Elevated): 3 sets x 3, 5-second holds
Supine Isometric Adductor Squeeze (Supine + Legs Extended, Supine Feet Flat, Supine Hip Flexion): 3 sets x 10s hold of each
Standing Resisted Adduction: 3 sets x 10-15 ea.
1/2 Kneeling + Loaded Adduction Slideboard Hinge: 3 sets x 8-12 ea.
Standing Lateral Slideboard Lunge: 3 sets x 8-12 ea.
If you don’t have access to slides, using a towel or sock while standing on tile/hardwood is a great replication!
Also, here are some non-isolation movements that have a high yield of return when it comes to strengthening your adductor muscles…
Single Leg Deadlift
(If you can maintain good balance, add using a dumbbell or kettlebell)
Cross-Over Step Up
Elevated Split Squat
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