The adductor stretch is a simple floor exercise for the inner thigh muscles that draw the legs toward the body’s midline. While a lengthening activity rather than a muscle builder or strengthening movement, this inverted split is supposed to support healthy adductor function and keep the legs on the right track during your compound lifts (e.g., squat, lunges, etc).
Akin to the red-headed stepchild in the thigh muscle family, the adductors typically go unnoticed unless someone’s in skimpies or tight leggings where they’re bulging out and touching the upper legs together. Nonetheless, they deserve just as much attention as the more popular quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes.
This is your know it all guide on the basic lying adductor stretch, with progressive variations too.
Muscles Worked In The Adductor Stretch
This guide is all about the inner thigh adductor muscles, therefore, we’ve described their anatomy in great detail below.
Your adductors are inner thigh muscles primarily tasked with pulling the legs toward each other, and beyond (Not to be confused with the abductors that pull the legs apart). While there’s conflicting information on the number of adductor muscles, there’s said to be one for each day of the week.
The adductors include:
- Adductor brevis
- Adductor longus
- Adductor magnus
- Adductor minimus
- Obturator externus
Forming the shape of the medial thigh, adductors originate at the pelvis, travel along the inner and rear femur, and just one adductor, gracilis, crosses and acts on the knee joint. Your adductors also stabilize the pelvis when standing, and support hip flexion.
How To Do The Adductor Stretch
As simple as they come, stretching your inner thigh adductor muscles is convenient and time efficient. You can do it upon waking, while you’re watching a show, or during your yoga routine.
Before intense stretching of any muscle, it’s important that you warm up to create better pliability in the fiber, which, in turn, prevents pulling a tight, cold muscle. You can achieve this by walking at a brisk pace for several minutes, doing a little body weight resistance exercise, etc.
Now let’s go over the adductor stretch steps!
- Lie on your back and relax your arms down by your sides.
- Extend your legs vertical towards the sky.
- Engage your core for stability.
- Slowly spread your legs apart until you feel a stretch in the inner thighs.
- Hold for 20-30 seconds and repeat 3-5 more times.
- Keep your knees bent if you don’t have the flexibility to keep them straight.
- Use your hands to gently pull your legs further apart for a deeper stretch.
- While there’s a way to do it right, there’s actually no way to do this stretch wrong, so long as you’re feeling an even stretch in your inner thighs, and doing it safely.
- Make sure to also include exercises that specifically strengthen the adductor muscles for an overall healthy and highly functional lower body.
Benefits of Adductor Stretch
The adductors are important muscles for movement, lifting, and physical activities. There are certain benefits to taking a few minutes to get loosened up.
Sustain healthy movement patterns
Because they’re so important for stabilizing the pelvis, supporting optimal hip function, and knee alignment, tight adductors can affect your biomechanics in various movements, while also causing knee, groin, and lower back pain. For example, during a squat, tight inner thighs can also cause the leg to collapse inward which is what we don’t want.
It’s also important to note that the adductors are predominantly type I muscle fibers, which can tend to shorten when exposed to chronic stress.
And according to information from The National Library of Medicine, inadequate stretching of the adductors is a risk factor for adductor strain, groin injury, and pain (1). Therefore, poor inner thigh maintenance can also sideline you, and affect your progress.
Prevent pulls and injuries
While the previous benefit also touched on this topic, it needs to be mentioned with separate points.
- Because the muscles create joint movement, increasing the flexibility of any muscle will allow your joints to function like they’re supposed to. When tight muscles perform explosive actions, they are more prone to strains, tears, and injuries.
- One 2020 study found that athletes with asymmetric thigh adductor strength are at increased risk of incurring groin injuries (2).
Whether you’re an active individual or not, the body still requires regular maintenance. Younger people especially may get away with not stretching and jumping right into physical activity, but it’s not a good long term habit because wear, and the effects of aging can catch up with anyone.
Increase hip flexibility
Imposing its anatomical role on the hips, stretching your adductors is going to contribute to good posture. You’ll also experience better movement in various stretches and resistance exercises. The increased range of motion will allow you to loosen up your other muscles too.
Variations of Adductor Stretch
There are countless ways to stretch the adductors, and it’s actually important that you hit them from a variety of angles for most benefit. However, we simply cannot list all of the variations, but we will show you the ones we like, and that are most commonly recommended.
Adductor stretch/lying split against a wall
An assisted version of the adductor stretch, you’ll lie on your back, with your bottom and heels pressed up against the wall, and legs in an inverted split position. We recommend wearing socks for this one as you’ll slide your feet down the wall toward the floor as they spread apart into the stretch.
Aim for 20-30 seconds in the stretch position, and do 3-5 rounds.
Pro Tip: Try turning your feet in and out to feel the stretch differently.
Strap assisted adductor stretch
While lying on your back you can utilize a strap to pull your legs further into a stretch. This is a common technique used when you cannot effectively use your arms to help stretch a body part.
Wide stance adductor stretch
Standing variations are highly recommended because you have more possibilities, freedom of movement, angles, and weight control to increase or decrease the intensity of the stretch. It also keeps the hips in extension which is going to allow a better full stretch of the inner leg.
Not to mention, it’s great for those who do not have the flexibility to perform other common adductor stretch variations.
Now let’s go over the technique…
- Stand with your feet wider than shoulder width.
- Take a step forward with either foot so that one leg is slightly in front of the other.
- Now bend the front leg and come into a side lunge until you feel a stretch in the opposite leg adductor muscles. The key here is keeping the non-lunging leg straight. Tense your quad to help keep the knee extended.
- Hold this position for 20-30 seconds and gently deepen the stretch if needed.
- Then make sure to do the same for the opposite side.
Pro Tip: Experiment with shifting your upper in various directions to feel a stretch in a different part of the inner thighs. Since we’re all unique and different, you’ll have to
Everyone knows this popular adductor stretch exercise as it’s one of the most commonly used in physical activity classes (e.g., martial arts, physical education, etc). However, while it is straightforward, and no doubt effective, the one drawback of the butterfly position is that it’s not going to stretch all of the adductors. You also need some flexibility to do it too.
So while it is simple and convenient if you’re already sitting, make sure to also combine it with some of the other stretches that you’ll find in this guide.
- Sit on the floor with your legs straight.
- Bend your legs and press the bottoms of both feet together. Grab onto the ankles and rest your elbows on your inner thighs. You don’t need to pull the feet toward your groin.
- Allow the knees to drop down. Use the forearms to gently push the legs deeper into a stretch. Don’t force it if there’s discomfort.
Pro Tip: When you feel flexible enough, pull your feet closer to your groin to enhance the stretch in your adductors.
Kneeling adductor stretch
Another very common method to stretch the adductors is to kneel down and use the ground to open up the muscles. From here, you can actually experiment a little, shifting your weight to achieve a stretch in the inside thighs.
- Get down on your knees, and extend either leg out to the side so that your inner foot is on the ground. In this position, only one knee should be on the ground.
- Move the knee slightly out so that it’s not directly below the hip.
- Place your hands on the floor in front of you and lean forward, keeping your back straight.
- Use your muscles to level your hips.
- Now rock forward and back. You should feel a nice stretch on the inner thigh of the extended leg.
Watch the half kneeling adductor stretch in 11 seconds!
Spread leg forward fold Upavistha Konasana
A much more intense stretch than anything mentioned, the full expression of a seated forward fold requires intense flexibility and mobility. But you’ll also get a ridiculous stretch in the inner thighs. There are a lot of details in setting up and performing this technique but it’s worth it!
- Start by sitting on your mat, with the knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and arms resting over your legs.
- Straighten your legs out in front of you, and spread them out wide.
- Use your hands and gently adjust your glutes by pulling them out to ensure you’re able to maintain an upright posture and lengthened torso without limitation.
- Flex your feet by pulling the toes back toward your ankle, and press the heels into the ground.
- Now place your fingertips behind your butt on the floor, and pull the shoulder blades slightly toward each other, and down. Then lift your chest up.
- Hold the stretch.
- If you’re ready for a deeper stretch, place your hands in front of you on the floor, then slowly walk your hands forward as much as you comfortably can.
- Now allow your upper body to sink down toward the floor to accentuate the stretch. But remember to maintain a lengthened back, not slouching over.
- From here, if you do not have the flexibility to descend further, you can use a yoga bolster and/or stacked blankets for support.
- Gently, lie your head down, looking to either side, and rest your elbows on the floor with your palms facing up.
- Let your entire body relax and sink into the cushions, allowing your arms to also become heavy.
- Bring awareness to your groin, feeling the wide position of your legs, while allowing your lower body to sink down into the floor.
- Stay here for 5 minutes.
- To come out of the pose, turn your hands over onto your palms, then slowly sit up, walking your hands back toward you for support.
- Before you finish the pose, and if you’re comfortable, from the sitting position, place the bolster/blankets on one leg, and lie your head down to that one side for 3-5 minutes. Repeat on the other side.
The adductor stretch isn’t shy about making its intentions known. It’s a direct, forward approach for unlocking a tight groin in seconds by implementing an upside down split to target those inner adductors with laser precision. Make sure to combine this stretch with the other variations to ensure no adductor gets left out, and remember that you don’t need to be perfect as everyone has to start somewhere. Go as far as you comfortably can, and give your knees permission to bend a little!