What on earth are hip stabilizers? If you have been reading along on our Hips and Hamstrings series (here and here), you will notice we are working alot with stretching and strengthening… finding the balance between the two will go a long way toward stable hips. But there are a few muscles for whom stabilizing is, essentially, their job. These are the Adductor and Abductor groups – the muscles of the inner thigh and outer hip.
Hip Stabilizers: The Adductor Group
The Adductors are a group of 5 muscles on the inner thigh ranging from super short to long enough to bend the knee (take a look in the picture to the right). Four of these guys attach to your pubic bone, making them minor hip flexors as well. The other attaches to your SIT bones, giving it a minor role in hip extension. The primary action of these hip stabilizers is to draw your legs together. When the adductors are dysfunctional (tight, weak, vast assymetries, etc), it usually leads to back pain.
To become familiar with the adductors and their role as hip stabilizers, try squeezing a block between your thighs as you take a few backbends, forward bends and twists. Pay special attention to how this affects your range of motion, ease of movement and the sensations in your knees and low back as compared to when these muscles are not engaged.
Hip Stabilizers: The Abductor Group
The Abductors are a group of 3 muscles: the TFL (which is also a flexor), Gluteus Medius and Gluteus Minimus (see the picture below). The primary action of these hip stabilizers is to move your legs out to the side. When the abductors are dysfunctional, it can show up as a dropped hip (especially when walking or in standing balance poses), knee pain and even sciatica-like pain.
To connect with the abductors and their role as hip stabilizers, try cinching a strap tight around the thighs, near to your greater trochanters. Use the pressure of the strap as a guide to press the outer thighs outward, as if you were isometrically taking your legs out to the side. With the abductors engaged like this, try a few forward bends, backbends and twists. Observe how this affects your range of motion, ease of movement and the sensations in your knees and low back, especially compared to when these muscles are not engaged.
Hip Stabilizers: Putting it all together
The Adductors and Abductors work against one another to offer your hips more stability in all your yoga poses. They also play an important role in holding your thigh bone in your hip socket properly for activities like walking and running.
To get an idea of how this works, try those same forward bends, back bends and twists again but, this time, engage BOTH the Adductors and Abductors. Remember the sensation of squeezing the block AND pressing the legs isometrically outward into your tight strap. You want to keep both these actions engaged at the same time. Notice again how this affects your range of motion, ease of movement, knees, low back and even balance.
Hopefully, you are feeling a little steadier, stronger and more stable as you move now. If these actions are feeling illusive, bear with me here… it may have been a while since you consciously isolated these muscles and it can take practice to figure out how to isolate them. The practice below will help you to do that.
Yoga Practice for Hip Stabilizers: Stretching and Strengthening