This blog was inspired by one of your peers, Dave Re. During a STRICTLY STRENGTH session, Dave asked me about the role of the adductor group when squatting. We briefly discussed the general action of these 5 muscles(adductor magnus, add. longus, add. brevis, pectineus, and gracilis), but I wanted to dive a little deeper in hopes of shedding a little more light on the many intricacies of the squat.
Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we need to understand the anatomy and actual anatomical terms that I will be "throwing" around during this rant...so, here are some of the basics:
Example: start with your arm raised at your side, parallel to the floor. Now, bring it down, tight to your side. This is ADduction - you "added" it to your midline.
ABduction: movement which draws a limb away from the midline of the body.
Example: The act of lifting your arm to the start position in the example above is ABduction. The arm was ABducted from the midline.
Agonist: is a classification used to describe a muscle that causes specific movement or possibly several movements to occur through the process of its own contraction.(also known as a Prime-Mover)
Antagonist: is a classification used to describe a muscle that acts in opposition to the specific movement generated by the agonist and is responsible for returning a limb to its initial position.
Eccentric Contraction: the muscle elongates while under tension due to an opposing force being greater than the force generated by the muscle. Rather than working to pull a joint in the direction of the muscle contraction, the muscle acts to decelerate a movement or otherwise control the repositioning of a load.
As you can probably start to see, all muscles, and therefore, movements, act in pairs. This is the BIG IDEA of this post, and it is important that you all understand that fact before we move on. Got it?
I'm sure that y'all have heard, "Push your knees out!", from your coach at least once, right? There's a reason for our constant barking - we are trying to get you to activate the ABductors as you descend to the bottom of the squat. This "knees out" movement is generated at the hip with the gluteus medius, gluteus minimus, and a small portion of the gluteus maximus(main action is hip extension) - the prime movers when it comes to ABduction. Without this muscle activation, the knees tend to collapse inward toward each other, resulting in a painfully awkward attempt to stand back up. No good!
On the other hand, when this is done correctly, several beneficial things happen:
1. The descent of the squat movement is far more controlled when we concentrate on driving the butt back and knees open due to the properties of the eccentric contraction. Both the hamstrings and the ADductors are resisting this downward movement = a slow, controlled, and powerful squat!
2. Because muscles work in pairs(remember?), while we are contracting the gluteus group to generate this hip ABduction, the ADductors are now performing an eccentric contraction to act as a stabilizer during the down phase. Once full depth is met, the ADductors that are on stretch now snap closed like a bear trap as we initiate the up phase, resulting in an increased force production as we drive out of the "hole".
3. You receive style points from your coach because you've successfully performed the squat without looking like you had to pee really, really bad. Always a good thing!
Now that you know the importance of the ADductors and ABDuctors, how do you strengthen them?
Well, to strengthen you ADductors you can simply sit is chair, or better yet, hold an active squat and place your elbows inside of your knees(this may sound familiar to some of you?). From there, squeeze your knees together and hold that isometric contraction for 10-15sec. Relax....and repeat 3-5 sets.
For the Abductor group, I recommend lateral band walks. You can see how to perform this exercise in this STRICTLY STRENGTH video. Also, the number one thing you can do to help strengthen these ABductor muscles is to PAY ATTENTION! When you squat, deadlift, lunge, push press, jerk, etc., take responsibility for where your knees go. Easy!
Go Get 'em!