Often the forgotten cousin of the lower limb (with the quads and hamstrings getting all the attention) is adductor (inner thigh) tightness which can be a fast track to poor movement patterns and low back pain.
If you spend a fair bit of time squatting or completing exercises that require expression of the squat in the movement (eg. Clean, snatch, lunge, step ups, life etc.) then chances are you have had a coach or enthusiastic training partner that tells you to drive your knees out.
The knees out cue is great for creating a lot of tension around the hip and helping to engage your glutes to assist you out of the bottom of the squat. What it also does is place your adductors in a position of mechanical advantage to allow them to assist with hip extension (hip opening).
But when we are preparing for, or recovering from, our squat sessions most of the emphasis is placed on the hips flexors, glutes, quads etc. These are all very important areas to mobilise, but mobility is just like training; you don’t want to become imbalanced. Having a huge mismatch between your strengths and your weaknesses is a recipe for injury. Likewise, super supple hip flexors and quads mixed with tight adductors is only going to compromise your ability to maintain knee position and lumbar position throughout the squat/clean/snatch, predisposing you to patellofemoral pain (knee pain around/under knee cap), impingement issues at the hip or low back pain.
To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, and to get your enthusiastic “knees out” yelling training partners to chill out, make sure you allocate some time to your adductors pre-post workout to ensure healthy hips, knees and nice low squats for the long run.
Remember your often overlooked adductors are doing their fair share of the work, so be fair and give them some attention in your prep/recovery.
Try this this adductor stretch to prep for your training next session:
‘Sling shot’ adductor/hamstring stretch: Standing with a very wide stance (i.e. until you feel tension in the adductors) with a heavy power band or stretch strap around your feet, hinge at the hip by pushing the hips back and letting your chest drop. Take hold of the band with a wide grip as near to your feet as possible. Then set your back as if you are going to lift weight, i.e. engage the lats. Try to pull your belly button toward the floor while keeping your shoulders back. Then tack the hamstrings on and off tension by driving your knees out straight then sitting back into a low bar squat position. To really get to the adductors, glide across from side to side into a cossack squat position and working into the corners that feel the tightest for you.
Spend around 3minutes working on this, you may need to break it up into smaller time pieces if you struggle to maintain tension on the band.
NOTE: DO NOT COMPROMISE YOUR LUMBAR POSITION IN THIS STRETCH. IF YOU CAN’T GET YOUR BACK SET, GET A LIGHTER BAND AND WORK UP TO A HEAVY BAND TENSION.