These days it seems like everyone is talking about the core as the keys to a power pedal stroke. One often overlooked but critical component though is hip mobility and the importance of the hip adductors.
As the Tour heads into the Pyrenees, and many riders’ passion for sprinting has been reinvigorated with Mark Cavendish’s resurgence within the Tour peloton, some are finding that while they are strong most of the day, when it comes to the last few miles, or that one last big climb, their inner thighs are getting tight, cramping, or not allowing you to stand or pedal hard.
This is an incredibly frustrating experience that I’ve had a few times myself, including the last 2 miles of the now defunct Tour of Tucker County, which featured a nice, super long 2.5+ mile climb to finish a grueling 60+ miles of climbing on the day.
The inner thigh and the all-important adductors (inner thigh muscles) group are powerful muscles that serve extremely important roles in your riding- especially for climbing and sprinting.
If you’ve ever had that inner thigh tightness or feeling that you should hold back just a little because your inner thigh was going to cramp, then the Half Kneeling Adductor walkout is a fantastic exercise that, as a part of an intelligently designed strength program, can help you improve your inner thigh mobility, core strength during movement, and hip mobility + stability, as it teaches you how to get length with strength of the adductor group.
The Half Kneeling Adductor Walkout
- One leg straight, with foot on the floor
The exercise must start with the knee straight and all toes of the outstretched leg on the ground. For many of us, this position itself will cause us to feel a stretch already, even before getting into the all 4’s position! If that is you, pair this exercise with the SidePlank top Foot Forward Exercise first, for a set of 15-20 seconds each side. That will help fire up your adductors and midsection, allowing you to get more out of this exercise.
- Find the right foot position
Once in the all 4’s position and you’ve found the position for your leg which will allow you to keep the knee straight and foot flat on the ground (for many of us it is far less than the model’s position in the video!), work to find a position for your foot, where your lower back is flat and parallel to the floor.
- Find spine-neutral
This begins the tricky part of the exercise. For many of us, simply getting into a spine-neutral position, with a slight, natural curve in the lower back, but with mild 360 degree abdominal bracing (using the Shielded Breath exercise, but tuned down), may be enough for us to feel a nice stretch in the inner thigh. If that is you, you’ve found your position and your exercise! Hang out in this position for 3-4* 15 seconds, relaxing everything between repetitions.
If you’re ok in this position and don’t feel a gentle stretch yet, continue on!
All 4’s position (one leg straight) to deep breathing (Bonus, not in the video!)
Finding the position where your hands are directly under your shoulders and you have spine-neutral, take 3-5 deep, slow breaths in through the nose, thinking about filling your mid to lower back with air, hold your breath for 5 seconds, then take a long, slow breath out through your mouth with pursed lips, as if blowing out a candle.
If you feel like this is getting you a nice stretch and helping you feel or move better stop here, and do only this for the next 2 weeks, before moving onto the walking out.
All 4’s position (with one leg straight) to walking
After the breathing, you should feel a bit more limber and loose, allowing you to have an easier time walking the hands out, while moving the hips forward at the same time. Keep the ribs and hips locked together as you move, only taking the hands out as far as you can keep everything moving as one Focus on pushing the outstretched leg’s foot into the ground, and only go until you feel a GENTLE stretch. Return to the starting position and move backwards only as far as you can keep spine neutral.
The Adductor walkouts can be a great addition to your mid-summer riding strength routine, but only if done properly. Be sure not to rush the exercise, get “more range of motion” or push the limits, as the you’ll lose the focal point of the exercise:
Learning to keep the hips and ribs locked together, while getting length and strength through the adductors in spine-neutral position.
A great way to help you make sure you’re doing this exercise correctly is to record a video of yourself performing the exercise on your smartphone. This is far superior to using a mirror, as looking over to the mirror takes away from your focus on feeling the exercise, and changes the exercise.
Lastly, don’t overdo this (or any) exercise! Start off with 1-2x a week, separated by at least 2 days, in order to allow your body to let you know if it likes this or not. Small, steady progress is our goal, not “mobilizing” and getting more range. Power without control is dangerous, especially to your lower back, if you open up this area without building appropriate strength.