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Muscle of the Month - The Abductor Group


The Abductor Group

They work as a team but they won't kidnap anyone! What are they? 'Abductors' is a general term for muscles which help take limbs away from the body. While we have abducting muscles which raise our arms away from our torso and to spread our fingers and toes, in terms of simple exercise this description usually applies to the muscles around the hips and buttocks which take the leg out to the side. 'Abductor group' is an umbrella term which explains one of the main functions of this range of muscles but not their sole reason for being. Where are they? They're all superficial muscles which means they're to be found close to the skin rather than close to the bone. This group comprises gluteus medius, gluteus minimus and tensor fasciae latae (TFL) with a little help from some fibres of the gluteus maximus (our body's biggest muscle) and some support from our deeper buttock muscles. They run from various sections of our pelvic crest out to our thigh bone, with the TFL fixing itself below the knee joint into the shin.

What do they do? These muscles work together to rotate the thigh outwards. You'll use these muscles to turn your knee outwards when standing. They also take the leg away from the body so if you lift your leg up to the side you'll be using them as well.

How do I activate them? We use them to stabilise when walking but to activate this group you would raise your leg up to the side when standing. Try a few of these leg raises with the thigh and knee facing forwards and then a few with the thigh facing outwards. You'll feel slightly different muscles come into play but they're all parts of the same group. You can also do this quite simply when kneeling, lying on your side or back.

Why do we need them? They help us get a leg out quickly so these muscles are key in keeping us upright on uneven surfaces. In addition, having a little extra padding around the side of the hip is a good way to prevent a broken hip in the case of falls so for both those reasons our postural stability exercises* always incorporate an element of strengthening for this muscle group. The stability element is key to why we need this muscle group. For every step we take, these muscles help us control the position of the thigh bone in relation to the pelvis and allow us to move forward evenly with both legs. When these muscles are weakened on one side we'll find the hip rises and falls or tilts inwards and outwards too readily. This lack of control has a knock-on effect on both the lower back and rest of the leg, causing conditions are far ranging as back pain, arthritis and fallen arches (source; physiopedia) *evidenced based programming designed to prevent falling in older adults

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