Adductor versus abductor
Adductor and abductor muscles have caused their fair share of muscle confusion for new fitness students. Many exercise movements, whether in a classroom, your own front room or out in the field, are comprised of adduction and abduction muscle usage.
If you relate the adductor muscles as those muscles moving a body part toward the body’s midline and abductor muscles as those that move the same body part away from that midline, you simplify the confusion a bit.
There are upper- and lower-extremity adductors and abductors. The shoulder and leg movements of swinging the legs and arms out away from the sides of the body incorporate both types of muscle usage for upper and lower parts of the body.
For example, if you wish to lift your arm out away from your side in an abductor movement, you would incorporate the usage of the middle deltoid and supraspinatus muscles of the shoulder. To put that same arm back to the side of the body is adduction and uses the latissimus dorsi and pectoralis major muscles.
I’m aware that muscle names are of little interest to the sweating crowd, but you really must use both sets of movement patterns to complete a muscle-group usage. Otherwise, you would be standing with your arms out away from your sides for the rest of your life without the strength to lower them, and the chance for muscle overbalance injury is greatly intensified.
Those legs go in and out, too. Kicks to the side in any sport incorporate the abductor muscles of the hip called tensor fascia lata, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. Then, returning to the midline of the body will use adduction muscles (a bunch of them): the pectineus, adductor longus, adductor magnus, adductor brevis and the gracilis. Both sets of muscles work together and need the strength of shortening and the flexibility of lengthening to give them balance.
Just for a bit of confusion for everyone, consider the transverse adduction and abduction of the hip and shoulder. When you bring your arm out to the side, you are abducting; when you bring that arm across your chest, you are transverse adducting the shoulder, using the pectoralis major, the coracobrachialis and the anterior deltoid muscles.
Transverse abduction uses the triceps muscle and posterior deltoid. Those simple arm crosses you have been doing will give you pause for thought from now on. And when you do jumping jacks, you can chant, “Adduct, abduct!” with each bounce. The students who understand will think you’re bright, and the ones who don’t will steer clear.
It’s fun to take a little of the fear out of fitness. It isn’t all sweat; there should be a little knowledge between the groans. Try to keep your adducting and abducting even, matching every movement with a counter movement to stabilize joints, ligaments and muscles. You may learn something and have a little fun in the process.
• Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Carson City Senior Citizens Center.