”Getting the most out of a little muscle group in endurance training.
By Lisa Dolbear, images by Rae Baumann
The adductors—or inner thighs—are one of the “forgotten” muscle groups for most triathletes. That is, until they are cramping and aching and you wonder, “What can be done to prevent that pain from happening again?”
The short answer: strengthen them.
These small muscles in the groin area aren’t immediately associated with strong running or cycling, but they actually play a key role in the way your body aligns and supports itself while you’re moving. Adductors help to handle the strains of high-volume running and cycling, and don’t require much to get stronger.
It’s important to also strengthen the outer thighs—or abductors—when you work the inner thighs, as these muscles compliment each other and work together to be successful. The partnership of these muscle groups makes for a good defense against many common endurance-training injuries (including knee pain), and helps your body to handle the increasing mileage and intensity in your workouts.
This week, we’ll focus on a good intro exercise for working the thighs, inside and out.
Start by laying on your side, balanced on your elbow with the leg closest to the floor bent beneath you. Extend the top leg so that it’s long, with the side of your foot resting on the floor.
With your core engaged (focus on pulling the core muscles in strong toward the spine), begin the exercise by raising the leg smoothly and evenly from the floor, keep it extended with your foot flexed (no pointy toes!). Be sure to coordinate your breath with this movement so you are exhaling as the leg rises.
On your inhale, lower the leg back down to the starting position. Try to do as many reps as you can over 60 seconds, being sure to keep the proper form and breathing pattern for the whole interval. Rest for 30 seconds, then resume again for two more 60-second intervals.
Next we’ll move to the inner thigh. Stay in the same position on the floor, but this time place the leg on top over the bottom leg, so your foot is resting on the floor in front of you. Your bottom leg is now extended straight along the floor, with the foot flexed. Holding the core strong, raise the lower leg slightly on an exhale, then lower down.
The movement will be small, and you want to avoid letting the leg rest on the floor before raising it again. Complete as many reps as you can over 60 seconds, rest for 30 seconds, then resume the exercise for two more intervals.
Switch sides and repeat from the top to work through the same exercises on the other side.
MAKE IT HARDER:
Be cautious before making this exercise harder, as a little bit goes a long way with these muscle groups. You can add intensity by strapping on some ankle weights for the leg lifts, or using a resistance band around the ankle and tucked beneath the body. You can also extend the duration of the intervals (i.e. as many reps as you can in 90 seconds instead of 60 seconds). If you feel any strain during the exercise, fall back to the easier version.
Lisa Barnes Dolbear is a USAT Level 1 coach and three-time IRONMAN finisher who lives and trains in upstate New York. She runs a popular “Dare to Tri” program at her local gym to help introduce new people to the sport, and strives to help athletes balance daily life with their passion for multisport. Follow her blog on mental training, Tri Mojo.