I often hear people refer to their hip flexors or adductors when training. But do you know what muscles comprise these different muscle groups?
When it comes to movement around through the hips it’s very easy for things to get confused. For example.. what’s the difference between hip adductors, abductors, flexors and extensors? Which side of the legs is the adductors and which side for abductors?
This post will help to clarify the differences between these muscle groups and the role they play in generating and controlling hip movement.
Understanding the following terms will allow you to understand why these muscles are grouped as “adductors”, “abductors”, “flexors” and “extensors” whilst also give you an idea of the location of the muscles which will drive certain movements.
Adduction is any movement towards the midline of the body whilst Abduction is movement away from the body. Meanwhile, Flexion describes a bending at a joint whilst Extension is the straightening at a joint.
Therefore, the Hip Adductors are the muscle group responsible for pulling the leg in towards the middle of the body. The Hip Abductors meanwhile are the muscle group responsible for movement of the leg out to the side of the body. When Hip Flexors contract they move your leg in front of the body whereas the Extensors, when contracted, move the leg behind the body.
Major Muscles: Adductor Brevis, Adductor Longus, Adductor Magnus, Gracilis and Pectineus
These muscles are found on the inside of the leg (groin area). All of these muscles originate from the pubis, a bone found in the pelvis, and run down the inner leg inserting in various place down the length of the femur (upper leg) – that is all bar the Gracilis which inserts onto the tibia (lower leg).
Major Muscles: Gluteus Medius, Gluteus Minimus, Tensor Fasciae Latae, Sartorius
The primary muscles responsible for Hip Abduction are the Gluteus Medius and Minimis which originate from the ilium (pelvis) and insert onto the femur.
The Tensor Fasciae Latae runs down the outer leg and inserts down at the lower part of the femur.
The Sartorius (pictured on the right) runs across the front of the thigh from the pelvis and down to the upper tibia.
Major Muscles: Iliacus, Psoas Major, Rectus Femoris (Quad)
The Iliacus and Psoas Major are often refer to as a single muscle – the iliapsoas. Whilst they are separate muscles, they do combine at the upper femur but originate from different points. The Iliacus originates at the ilium (pelvis) whereas the Psoas Major originates from the spine.
The other major muscle involved in Hip Flexion is the Rectus Femoris (pictured on the right) which is one of four muscles of the quadriceps. The Rectus Femoris begins at the ilium, runs the length of the upper thigh and attaches (with the other 3 quadricep muscles) to the patella (knee cap).
Major Muscles: Gluteus Maximus, Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus, Biceps Femoris (Hamstrings)
The Gluteus Maximus is the biggest and most powerful muscle in the human body. It originates from multiple points – the ilium, lumbar spine and sacrum – and inserts on the femur. The Iliotibial Tract (often refered to as the IT Band), originates from the gluteus maximus, runs down the outside of the leg and inserts down on the tibia.
Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus and Biceps Femoris are the three muscles of the hamstrings. They all originate from the ischium (pelvis) and insert on either the tibia or the fibula (lower leg).