Many athletes don’t realize that they may be in terrific shape, but there are three muscles which, if neglected, will keep them from winning or even reaching the podium. But sadly, people are saying that machines made to work two of these muscles shouldn’t be used.
The three muscles are the abductor, adductor and glutes, or butt. There has recently been a rash of opinions that abductor and adductor machines in the gym are ‘useless’ and those muscles aren’t used by athletes. What a load of bosh!
The adductors (inner thigh) and abductors (outer thigh) build functional strength for athletes who run and cut, bend at an angle, move in other directions than straight ahead, jump, ski or snowboard. In other words, every athlete in any sport.
You can remember which muscle is which by thinking of abductors as in ‘abduct,’ or take away—they are thus on the outside of the thigh. That of course also tells you that the adductors are on the inside.
Both muscles help stabilize and support the knee, preventing a season-ending torn ligament or sprain. Whenever you’re using your lower body, they come into play, protecting the knee joint, femur and even the hip.
Strengthening the abductors can help you pull out of a problem if your foot starts to slide on a field or a slippery surface. The machines are also useful for helping to show strength balance between the two muscles. While the adductors should be the stronger muscle, the strength ratio should never be more than 25 per cent.
The only problem with the open-and-close-your-legs machines is their limited range of motion—in and out while sitting. The hip machine, often called the rotary hip machine, is preferable, though more difficult. However, because it’s used in a standing position, the exercise uses the muscles in their normal firing position, thus building more thorough muscle firing.
If you have no access to these machines, use a looped elastic band or bungy cord. Loop it to a stationary object, slip it over your ankle and pull in both directions to work both muscles.
There are many ways to work the glutes. Gym exercises such as squats, deadlifts, lunges and step-ups (holding a weight and stepping up on a weight bench) will all work well. But if you want to work this large muscle at home, without going to a gym, here are several butt-busting exercises you can use.
First, try various versions of the ‘bridge.’ Lay on the floor, with your heels pulled close to your butt and your arms flat beside you. Lift the hips, with your back, butt and thighs in a straight line. Keep the effort in your glutes; don’t let the hamstrings take over the work.
To work the glutes at a different angle, put your lower legs on an exercise ball and lift your hips into a bridge as described above. You can add more resistance to bridge exercises by attaching a weight belt around your waist or holding a weight plate or dumbbell on top of your pelvis as you lift your hips.