Every big box commercial gym has them. Right there in the middle of a row of your favorite exercise machines. They usually sit side by side, looking like twins from a distance, but once you get a little closer you can tell they are ever so slightly different in the way they work. Every time somebody uses one of these contraptions, you can't help but giggle a little inside due to how seemingly vulgar these exercises appear.
One has you spreading your legs as wide as possible and the other has you slamming them closed. It's as if you should alternately wear a halo or some red horns on your head any time you use these two machines. (I'll let you decide which is which.) In case you haven't figured out what I am talking about, I'll just give you the answer: The adductor (inner thigh) and abductor (outside hips) machines.
First let me say this, I am in no way suggesting that I have not been guilty of finding myself eerily drawn to these machines. Speaking strictly from a female perspective here, sometimes there is this weird rationalization that overrides our better judgment when we see another woman doing one of these exercises and she is busting out some serious reps unaware or concerned that she is letting everyone know if her yoga pants are manufactured for sweat absorption…or not. She doesn't give a hoot and we think “I gotta do that now too!” Obviously the more awkward and difficult it seems, the better it works, right? Well, not necessarily.
What is the reason that so many people, women in particular, are attracted to these two often misused machines? Because most women hate their thighs and the way they touch when they walk. If only they could whittle down those inner thigh and slim down the outer thighs to supermodel dimensions, oh what a magical machine that would be!
Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news but, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SPOT REDUCTION! However there IS such a thing as spot increase. By using these machines you are building the muscle and increasing the size of the hips and thighs, not shrinking them as hoped. Here is a nice little excerpt from Precision Training:
In reality, the reason people use this machine is because of the false belief that if they work the inside and outside of the thighs, they’ll be able to melt the fat off those areas. If you’re one of those people, I’m sorry to burst your bubble but that will NEVER happen!
Now, you may be thinking, ok Roni, I get it, it won’t magically sculpt my thighs, so why did they make the damn thing if I’m not supposed to use it?
These machines can be very useful if you have certain goals in mind. Surprisingly enough there are people who WANT to build gigantic thighs and increase their hip size. Those people are known as bodybuilders and they should feel free to hop on in to these machines and get to squeezing and pressing. Another very good reason to use them is if you play a sport such as tennis, volleyball or soccer. These sports require a lot of lateral (side to side) movements thus requiring stronger inner and outer thigh muscles to both create and stop those side to side movements.
The one thing the hip abduction and adduction machines do effectively is strengthen these target muscles. Because these muscles act as stabilizers, they are typically not meant to be extraordinarily strong, except for athletes. There are even some sports, such as jiu jitsu, that require especially strong hips and the ability to squeeze and control your opponent between your legs. (Insert witty comment here)
The final reason that I can see using these machines that otherwise should be collecting their fair share amount of dust, is for corrective exercises for hip strength anomalies. Some anomalies often seen that could use the functionality of these machines is if you squat and your knees bow inwards, the abductor can help. If your knees bow outwards during a squat, the adductor could help.
For the rest of us non-athletes, non-bodybuilders and non-corrective issue bearers, why not try some other exercises that will actually get you the results you were hoping would come from these two exercises? Remember, if you thought these bad boys helped reduce body fat in your thighs, you now know that isn't possible, so perhaps you should wander over to a treadmill and try out some High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sprints. Those are very effective at reducing fat all over your entire body, including the inner and outer thighs.
Want stability in your adductors and abductors? Try standing on one leg. Not only are you activating those critical inner and outer thigh muscles to keep your leg stable, but you’re also activating your core. Single leg squats require more stabilization to build up strength in the hips and thighs. Other single leg exercises such as reverse lunges and forward lunges are great for the adductors and abductors.