The abductors and adductors are critical for providing integrity of the hip joint and create a strong, balanced link between the lower body and the torso. They also need to be exercised through an entire range of motion. If you work these muscles only in one direction (forward and back) by walking, running or using common cardio machines then you are not building structural integrity of the hip, or the entire lower body.
These muscles, along with the quads and hamstrings, play an important role in allowing the patella (kneecap) to track properly as the knee joint bends. If the abductor and adductor muscles are not strong, flexible, and balanced, knee pain such as patellofemoral syndrome, and injury is more likely.
Strong Muscles Support JointsStrengthening and balancing the muscles that surround the knee can take the pressure off the joint and decrease the amount of total weight absorbed by the ligaments, meniscus and cartilage in the knee. Because the knee is a hinge joint and only moves in one direction, it's important to maintain both strength and stability.
The hip joint, on the other hand, is a ball and socket joint that works best when it has mobility as well as strength. The hip is a much more complicated joint, and needs to be exercised in a variety of directions, including rotation, in order to increase overall stability. If the muscles that support the hip joint (quadriceps, hip flexors, glutes, hamstrings, and even the core muscles) are strong and allow appropriate mobility, the amount of pressure and wear and tear on the hip joint, as well as the knee joint, decreases.
Proper Alignment Reduces PainThe soft tissues of the body (muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc.) help maintain proper alignment of the bones during movement. If bones aren't properly aligned when they move through a range of motion, there can be a great deal of friction, a lack of stability, decreased mobility and compromised function. This can set an athlete up for a variety of injuries.
The best way to maintain biomechanical integrity during movement is with the proper balance of strength and flexibility around the joint. Muscles work in pairs (extensors and flexors) and maintaining the proper balance of strength in these muscle pairs can go a long way to prevent joint pain and injury.
Begin with a Functional Warm UpConsider using the core workout as a warm up before strength training. This routine activates the core stabilizers as it warms up the larger muscles to prepare for more powerful strength training exercises. Also see:
Exercises for Strong Hips and KneesThis list offers some great exercises that athletes from all sports can incorporate into their training routines to help keep the hips and knees properly aligned, strong, flexible and able to withstand the rigors of sports.
- Clam Exercise
A basic glute medius strengthening move.
- Bridge Exercise
A hamstring and glute strengthener.
- Plank Exercise
This basic strengthening exercise can improve overall core biomechanics.
- Side Plank
This basic hip abductor strengthening exercise can improve alignment.
- Lateral Mini Band Walking
This simple exercise can improve the strength of the glute medius, which helps pelvis and knee stability.
- Single Leg Bridge
A bit more advanced way to build stability.
- Lunge with a Twist
Adding a twist to the lunge improves core stability.
- Weighted Step Ups
This simple and effective exercise improves strength and power without excessive stress on the knees or hips.
The basic full squat is the overall best lower body strengthening exercise. Just be sure to do it correctly.
- Walking Lunge
Walking lunges, with or without weights, can improve strength and balance.
- Lateral Plyometric Jumps
Side-to-side moves to improve hip mobility and strength.
- Weighted Adductor | Weighted Abductor Exercises
Deceptively difficult exercises for athletes.
- One-Leg Squat and Reach
This exercise builds strength and stability in both the lower body and core.
- Overhead Lunge
Increase the difficulty of the lunge and add core stability by holding weight overhead.
Plyometrics build explosive strength and help reduce the rick of knee ligament injuries when performed correctly.