The Magical Power Between Your Legs

David Weck

Coach

Strength and Conditioning, Biomechanics

Whether you’re a man or a woman, you have more power between your legs than you think. What am I referring to? The adductors, of course.

 

The adductors are one of the most misunderstood and inappropriately trained muscle groups. While they do bring the thighs together, they are mostly used in flexion and extension of the hips in everyday movement. How many muscle groups can you name that both flex and extend a joint? 

 

 

This makes it all the more important to strengthen the adductors to perform stronger, faster hip flexion and extension. Running, jumping, agility, squatting, and lunging all improve when the adductors are better at flexing and extending the hips.

 

A Misplaced Emphasis

The fact is, we rarely if ever squeeze our legs together against resistance in life. Perhaps riding bareback on a horse or in jiu-jitsu class you’d want to squeeze your legs together against resistance. But there’s not a lot of other application to squeezing the legs together. 

 

Adductors contribute to flexing the hips in the open chain phase of movement, when the foot is moving up off the ground. They are also key to squatting, where they help pull the body down into a better position, versus passively descending into a squat. They also help extend the hips coming up from a squat, and help drive the legs down and back when sprinting. While they aren’t the big prime movers everyone thinks of for these movements, you’re stronger and faster when your adductors are in the game instead of just along for the ride. 

 

Despite their predominant role as flexors and extensors, the way most people target them is by squeezing the thighs together against resistance. The problem here is that when the resistance is positioned against the inside of the thighs, shins, or feet, this oblique force does not travel up though the body and skeleton (up the kinetic chain), the way forces do when directed through the bottoms of the feet. It’s akin to performing only chest flies to get better at bench pressing. And if you do too much adductor squeezing from the side, you’ll actually increase the likelihood of groin pulls, while not gaining transferrable strength or power. 

 

If There Are No Trees to Climb

The key to getting the most from your adductors is engaging them with the force driving through the bottoms of your feet. For this, you need something other than a 2D ground environment. The only way to specifically target the adductors is to have something between your feet that enables you to drive the soles of your feet toward the center line beneath you.

 

Long ago, our distant ancestors used to shimmy up trees. There are still remote pockets of primitive cultures that do this regularly today. For those of us living in the concrete jungle, we need a better solution for developing the functional role of the adductors. It’s called Compression Strength Training using the BOSU Elite. 

 

Before I continue, please note the intention of this article is not a sales pitch for BOSU balls; it's to inform you of the best way to train and get the most out of your adductors. The BOSU’s dome shape and elastic quality is perfectly suited for training the adductors (along with the glutes, pecs, and lats). The shape enables you to drive your feet together toward the midline, with all of the force reactively transmitting up the kinetic chain through the soles of your feet. 

 

You do this to your limit, until you can’t compress it in any further. This is where the magic happens. Elastic resistance has an acceleration factor that is much faster than gravity. The harder you compress the dome, the higher the resistance gets, and the speed of the resistance stimulates the nervous system to recruit the largest motor units and maximum amount of fast twitch muscle fibers. 

 

When you set up the correct foot position (see the video below), squeeze with the correct parts of your feet, match your spine and shin angles throughout the exercise, and compress into the dome as hard as you possibly can, you experience an immediate carryover effect in your adductors: moving and squatting better on the ground.

 

 

The Competitive Edge

In athletics, new advantages eventually become necessities. Because it is now possible to tap into the adductors in such a way so as to immediately enhance both strength and speed, the list of institutions and trainers using this new method of training is growing every day.

 

Cal Poly, under the leadership of Coach Chris Holder, was the first college institution to use Compression Strength Training to train every athlete in every sport. One of the first things Coach Chris White did when he arrived at LSU this year was to incorporate the same system.

 

My advice to everyone in the fitness and sports training industry is stop squeezing the life out of your adductors with oblique force from the side on that gynecological machine in the gym. It’s doing little or nothing to enhance your function, and likely increases the odds of injury. Instead, try your damnedest to pop the BOSU Elite between the soles of your feet, exactly as shown in the video, and enjoy the benefits to all of your power and athletic movements.

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