The first thing to know is that the inner thigh muscles are called adductors. What, might you ask, is an adductor? Well, as you know, I love to show you the anatomy, so let’s take a look at the five muscles involved in the hip. They are primarily located on the inside of the thigh, and their job is to pull the leg toward the centerline of the body, and stabilize the leg while you move forward as well.
Meet your adductor muscles
They have fun names: this is Gracilis
This is Adductor magnus
And our friend Adductor longus
His buddy the Pectineus
And tiny helper Adductor brevis
Spot the adductors
Watch this video of Miss Mary running and see if you can see the adductors at work.
Here are two freeze frame snapshots from the video of her running. See those adductors at work? Those muscles are grabbing her upper thigh and twisting the knee in.
Fast forward to last weekend, where she was playing in a soccer tournament, and hurt her knee. She came to workout talking about her knee, and how it hurt, but there wasn’t anything that really happened… no big tackles, no big kicks, no big falls. Just hurt out of nowhere, it seemed.
Or did it?
There is a big push out there for girl soccer players in particular to do some ACL (anterior cruciate ligament inside the knee joint itself) prevention work. Women have slightly wider hips than men, and the measurement from the front of the hip bone to the knee is called the “Q angle”. Q angles are bigger on women because structurally we have wider hips for babies. In my opinion, this increased Q angle also contributes to knees on women having a greater tendency to roll in, like you saw in the video and the stills above.
Recall that the knee joint is a hinge joint like a door, not a revolving door that rotates in a circle. Yet when knees roll in, that is exactly what is happening. The most dangerous situation for a knee is when you are on one foot and twisting. That is when knees are most vulnerable and get taken out, or in some cases, you blow your ACL.
If you start with a knee that is already rolling in or “knocking”, like Mary’s above, then in my opinion it is just a matter of time. Add some impact with kicking and tackling and changing directions quickly, and it won’t take much to irritate the knee. Sometimes stepping off a curb becomes an Olympic event. 🙁
What is the happy news?
Well, I’m so glad you asked. Guess what I am going to say. I know I am a broken record, but as it turns out the best thing to balance the adductors is to get the glutes to work. They are antagonists. Yes, as I said in the email intro we scrubbed the adductors to release the tightness, but you need some muscles to engage to keep the release released. Add some hamstrings in. Get that knee tracking straight ahead again!
If you want help remembering how to acitvate glutes, re-read this BLOG; if you want help with hamstrings, re-read this BLOG!
As my eleven year old Mary left our workout, her knee didn’t hurt anymore because we got the glutes and hamstrings working again.
I yelled to her across the park, “Hey, Mary! Do you have a knee problem?”
She yelled back (I kid you not), “No, Laura, I have a glute and hamstring problem! Click To Tweet”
AAAAH. Happiness. Smart girl! 🙂
Let us know in the comments below if you have had these twisty knee problems and what you’ve done about them. I’m super curious to hear about it!