| | Attacking Limiting Factors: Hip Adductors

Author / John

In Attacking Limiting Factors: Hips, we introduced some simple exercises to attack your abductors and adductors on the 4 Way Physio Board.  Great feedback has poured in over effectiveness of the movements from individuals in their garage gym to proprietors of S&C facilities.  Nearly every email we’ve gotten has at least one clutch fisted curse for the adductor isolation we’ve prescribed.  We also get much of the same feedback on the forums any day which CPT Morgan with Vertical Supports are programmed on Field Strong and our other programs.


Aside from a groin stretch or two, adductors are often a neglected component of training for most individuals.  While majority of the big sagittal plane lifts activate the adductors to assist the primary movers, these muscles still need attention outside the squats and deads no matter what the athlete is training for.

The adductors consist of a group of 7 muscles (Adductor Brevis, Longus, Magnus, and Minimus, Pectinius, Gracilis, and Obturator externus) with the primary action of, you guess it, hip adduction.  They are also players in assisting internal and external rotation of the hip, hip flexion, and hip extension.  Like with any synergist muscle, it is impossible to know how much they’re involved until they’re taken away from you.  Those of you that have experienced a groin injury and tried to squat know exactly what I’m referring to.


The real magic of strong, stable, and dynamic adductors is on display on Game Day of any field or court sport.  Even though these muscles are not primary movers in sagittal plane plane sports such as Powerlifters, Olympic Lifters, and CrossFitters, they still hold a key to success in these arenas; especially if the adductors are over-active or weak!

This article will present adductor limiting factors that affect lifting and on field performance, as well as introduce new movements beyond the 4-Way Board to mobilize, stabilize, and develop strength in the adductors.

Dominance Phenomenon

Every kinesiology book will list the actions of each muscle as isolated functions; including the primary movements, movements they are synergists (assist) for, and those they antagonize (counteract).  Using the bicep as an example: Primary movement is elbow flexion, it assists with forearm supination, and antagonizes the tricep during elbow extension.

Most of the time during training or moving, muscles operate normally with each other hitting their isolated functions.  But, other cases exist in which a muscle either over-does their isolated function or a muscle becomes a victim by association when they must go from synergist to primary mover because of a dysfunction.


This synergist dominance occurs because a primary mover becomes under-active, lengthened, or is too weak, and inappropriate muscles take over.  When this takes place, lever length tension relationships of the muscles are altered which changes the movement pattern. This leads to altered muscle recruitment and possible joint pain or injury down the road.

You are all familiar with this phenomenon, especially when you see valgus knee during an athlete’s squat.  An athlete’s adductors are taking on the weight of the squat for either the ABductors, hamstrings, or even the trunk which are not operating properly.  The unfortunate reality is that this is how a majority of athletes new to training are getting their adductor work!  This altered joint motion alters the neuromuscular function of the adductors which may not only lead to injury on field due to poor posture and position defaults, but it certainly adds unnecessary risk in training.

Dominance phenomenon must be understood before introducing the movements below.  The fix of the above valgus knee will depend on the athlete, but I will say the answer is NOT ignore adductor work.  Yes, they have strong groin muscles because it is clearly taking over, but you are responsible for correcting the faulty movement pattern that is being developed.  Valgus or varus knees (Knee outside feet) are a recipe for an ACL or other knee injury, and the below movements will assist in correcting that movement pattern.

Attacking the Adductors

When applying the below movements, you need to look for quad dominance which will be clear when knee flexion occurs.  The adductors may be too tight or weak for the desired actions, so the athlete’s quadriceps will become synergistically dominant changing the movement pattern.  The movements below are designed to lengthen, strengthen, and prepare the adductors for force reduction and production out of the athletic position required for on field performance.

Leg Cradle Lateral Lunge with a Twist

One of my favorite warm ups for many, many reasons and needs to be included in any day you plan on changing direction during training.  Here we are looking at some opposing action of the left and right legs, much like the athlete will experience during running or COD.

We initiate this movement with a leg cradle stretch with the lead leg and a straight trail leg on the ground.  Keeping the trail leg locked, step the lead leg out into a toes forward, single leg athletic position pushing the hips back into the hamstring.  Notice the knee of the lead leg is over the instep of the foot and the trail leg’s knee is locked, stretching the groin.

After the hips are set, the athlete rotates towards the lead leg, grabs the knee with the opposing hand and pulls into an exaggerated twist.  As the shoulders separate from the hips, the hips and legs are locked into a position throughout twist and return to neutral.  Keeping a locked trail knee, the athlete pushes off the lead leg and pulls with the trail leg’s adductors, finishing in a step up position.

Goblet Lateral Lunge

There are several ways to load up the lateral lunge, and this is the safest starting point when beginning to stress this movement pattern.  Just like the movement above and below, we are combining Primal movements and stressing the athlete as their hips rotate through the Z-axis and X-axis.  The athlete must focus on catching their foot is a solid toes forward athletic position and reduce the force of the weight while maintaining posture and position.  After force is reduced, the athlete gets to produce force unilaterally, pushing off the bent knee leg and pulling with the locked, long leg adductors into a solid, knee up position.

Lateral Lunge with a Chop


Here we are challenging an athlete to move through all planes of motion practicing not only the force reduction/production challenges above, but also anti-rotation of the single leg, athletic position.  A more challenging movement than appears, the athlete begins in a knee up, toe up position with the weight in the opposite hand.  As the athlete makes contact with the ground with their lead foot, they twist at the trunk and try to get the dumbbell just through the legs, at calf height.  Stopping the momentum of the weight and trunk rotation, they then push off the lead leg, pull with straight trail leg’s adductors, and curl the dumbbell to the starting position.

2 Position Athletic Position Adductor Slides


Now that the adductors were isolated, lengthened and strengthened, we can implement these into a dyanamic movement that will help challenge the athletic position and prepare the athlete for COD.  Both adductors are going to get involved in this movement!  Set up in your athletic position with a 5-10lb plate a step in front on the inside of your outside leg.  Simply step the outside foot up and make contact with the plate.  Maintaining a toes forward position, use both adductors to pull in opposite directions.  One trying to pull the weight across the floor, and the other trying to pull the hips over the lead leg.

After getting both right and left with the plate in front, start with the plate behind and execute the same way.  The plate in front puts more emphasis on the trail leg pulling the weight, and the plate behind puts more emphasis on the lead leg pulling the hips through space.

Shakira Empowers Performance

There is so much your athlete’s body is telling you, and from my experience, the hips don’t lie!  Especially the adductors.  Watch your athletes move through all planes of motion and look for the dominance phenomenon take place.  If the valgus knee is consistent, this is usually an indicator of ligament dominance and pretty strong adductors.  BUT, they may not be strong through the frontal plane or proper movement pattern, which all of the above movements are challenging.

The Leg Cradle Lateral Lunge Twist is a great place to start, along with Captain Morgans and IT Band Slow Twisting Kicks.  Look for any of deviation from perfection in the straight leg challenged or the trunk in these movements.  Once competency is established in the bodyweight/multiplane movements, begin to introduce the movements with external resistance.

While the isolation movements providing in the previous hip limiting factor article will begin to strengthen the adductors, the dynamic, full body movements above are necessary to bridge the gap from the Physio Board to the field.  Remember, we are not just training the adductor’s isolated function.  We’re training proper neuromuscular function of these muscles and preparing for the multiplane demands the athlete will face every time the step into their arena!

Related Content

BLOG: 4 Way Physio Board by Tex McQuilkin
BLOG: Attacking Limiting Factors – Hips by Tex McQuilkin
BLOG: My ACL Journey by John Welbourn
BLOG: Now Your Daughter Doesn’t Have to Live in Fear of an ACL Tear by Tex McQuilkin

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John Welbourn is CEO of Power Athlete and Fuse Move. He is also creator of the online training phenomena, Johnnie WOD. He is a 9 year veteran of the NFL. John was drafted with the 97th pick in 1999 NFL Draft and went on to be a starter for the Philadelphia Eagles from 1999-2003, appearing in 3 NFC Championship games, and for starter for the Kansas City Chiefs from 2004-2007. In 2008, he played with the New England Patriots until an injury ended his season early with him retiring in 2009. Over the course of his career, John has started over 100 games and has 10 play-off appearances. He was a four year lettermen while playing football at the University of California at Berkeley. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in Rhetoric in 1998. John has worked with the MLB, NFL, NHL, Olympic athletes and Military. He travels the world lecturing on performance and nutrition for Power Athlete. You can catch up with John as his personal blog on training, food and life, Talk To Me Johnnie and at Power Athlete.


  1. stevenzissou on April 27, 2015 at 5:15 pm

    Thanks for the article Tex. I love the attacking limiting factor series.

    I am a soccer player who luckily hasn’t had a injury history other than a persistent achilles tendinitis. I built your physio board and use it regularly, I also integrate at least one of your drills from the ACL series as a “prehab” element for Fieldstrong.

    What are your thoughts and or concerns with mobility of the hip and ankle joint. Most of your articles are emphasized on stability and strength of the joint and surrounding muscles but if the hip is lacking acceptable mobility do we not need to address that aswell?

    I believe my right hip to be significantly less mobile than my left, namely in abduction and internal rotation. Would you attack these range of motion issues in a Kelly Starrett type approach or do you feel that the more strength focused movements that you provide will eventually yield an improved ROM?

    I am coming up on off season and am really hoping to use my 2 months to attack and improve my limiting factors. Thanks!

    • Tex McQuilkin on April 28, 2015 at 6:58 am

      Thanks for using the tools we’re providing for prevention. Always a hard sell, glad to see people out there taking the initiative.

      Great question! The reason the Limiting Factors series focuses more on gaining stability and strength through movements rather than mobility is simple: make better movers. While there is value in Starrett’s tools, moving well is the greatest mobility tool. We want to get athletes in the correct starting positions and move through their full ROM while maintaining posture and position. Their ROM, and ability to control through that ROM, will increase over time. Our warm ups are very comprehensive and attack Primal movements as a whole with more than one mobility LF at once. The spiderman is not just for the up leg’s high hamstring, it also gets the hips, trunk, shoulders, and ankle! Accelerated Adaptation!

      I am also coming from team environments with barriers that make prevent the application of many of traditional mobility tools. If I have 40 minutes with 40 guys and not enough bands or balls or space to get guys on the ground or hanging bands, how can I still attack their limiting factors in 10 minutes or less and still prep to load their spine with heavy ass weight? Putting the athletes in the positions you see on Field Strong and progressing like you see in many of these LF articles.

      Be sure to get up on the forums and film your warm ups to see how we can fix your hips this off-season.

  2. thilton on April 28, 2015 at 7:50 am

    …You’re right, the hips don’t lie…

    (I see what you did there.)

  3. Robby Gustin on April 28, 2015 at 9:48 am

    Thanks for another great article in the attacking limiting factors series. Do you have any advice on how to systematically implement the things you recommend in the Attacking Limiting Factors series into our individual training protocol if we’re following something like Field Strong? For instance, should we spend 1 day a week (say Wednesday) for 6 weeks working on the foot arch exercises you recommended and then move on to hips or adductors for another 6 weeks? Or should we just rotate week to week where one Wednesday we do the adductor exercises, the next week we do the ankles on the physio board, and the next week we do the arch support exercises?

    I’ve been able to incorporate a few of these exercises, and it’s been very helpful. I guess I’m just trying to find a systematic way to incorporate it into my weekly programming. I’d like to incorporate at least some part of the attack limiting factors series into my training at least once a week. I’m just not sure where to start or how frequently I should be doing what.

    • Tex McQuilkin on April 29, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      Great question! A couple ways to approach this, but first, training for any meets/seasons/anything with an end date? Something we can build up towards, or are you training to train long term?

  4. Robby Gustin on April 29, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks for your response. No meets, seasons, anything with an end date for the foreseeable future.. Just training to train long term.

    • Tex McQuilkin on April 30, 2015 at 7:30 am

      Since you’re training to train and we got time, approach these with a perspective of mastery and truly fixing some leaks. Start by attacking Ankles on sprint days, Shoulders to Press Days, Hips and Feet to Squat Days, Adductors and Footwork every COD day, and Trunk Rotation on Primal/Plyo days. All the movements in these articles are listed from base to build up, so only progress upward if you master the first movement. Save any weighted resistance movement as extra credit for after your training. For example: On a COD day you would include the 1st lateral movement listed above in your warm up and then add the Goblet during extra cred. Goal is always perfection during these, so stop when reps start to deviate.

      Comments are open to public, hit me up in the forums Coach’s Corner if you need more programming help. Keep me posted on your progress too!

  5. Robby Gustin on April 30, 2015 at 11:48 am


    Thanks! That’s really helpful. I appreciate it.


  6. DavidMck on May 3, 2015 at 8:39 am

    Hey @mcquilkin when during the training do you recommend doing this work? Been implementing it post warm up, pre strength training, just like I have been with the plyometeics, LSA/COD stuff. The idea being athletes should attack this stuff fresh. Personally I have Been hitting these movements almost every day now since the article came out, really liking them, especially the Lateral lunge w/ dumbell chop.

  7. Conor Lynch on May 5, 2015 at 11:16 am

    Fantastic series brohammer. Every time you post an article, I look like a movement wizard when I go to coach my next classes and drop some new knowledge on them. That, and I’m squatting more confidently than ever. So I got that going for me. Which is nice.

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