The gracilis in your upper inner thigh isn’t a big muscle, but it’s part of the larger hip adductor group. So when you work out this small muscle, you’ll actually make a big difference in many ways. Strong hip adductors help with side-to-side movements and also help to flex your knee. So whether you’re defending a tough scorer on the basketball court, getting ready to kick a soccer ball, or just running for fun, you’ll benefit from exercises that target your gracilis muscle.
You can perform a variety of stretches to increase your flexibility in the inner thigh area. In a standard groin stretch you’ll place your lower leg on a bench or a similar surface that’s about as high as your upper thigh. Turn a shoulder to the surface and set the inner part of your lower leg on top. Flex your far knee a bit until you feel the stretch. Try a kneeling groin stretch by balancing on your forearms and knees, pointing your toes to your sides, then spreading your knees and lowering your hips until you feel the stretch in your inner thighs. You can also perform groin stretches while seated, lying down or lying with your legs against a wall. Side lunges will also stretch your gracilis muscle.
You can work the gracilis muscle and your other hip adductors on several different machines. There’s a dedicated hip adductor machine in which you sit with your legs spread, place your legs against the machine’s pads, then squeeze your legs together. You can also lift weights by attaching your ankle to a low pulley. Set your feet together, then allow the pulley to raise your cuffed ankle and pull it toward the machine. Exhale as you move your cuffed foot in front of, and past, your far ankle. Keep your cuffed leg straight at all times. Inhale as you return your leg, slowly, to the starting position. Or try a leg press plie by setting up on a leg press machine but pointing your toes outward against the resistance plate.
Place your desired amount of weight on one end of a barbell. Lie on your side and hold the barbell’s empty end with your upper arm. Place the bar across the instep of your lower foot, with the weight resting against the bottom of your foot. Bend your knee, then lift your foot, and the weight, as high as you can.
Use a resistance band to duplicate the hip adduction cable exercise. Attach the band to a secure object, then to the ankle closest to the anchor point. Move your ankle in front of your far leg, then back to complete one rep. Make the exercise more challenging by standing on an inflated hemisphere. Alternatively, wrap a circular band around both ankles, then lift one ankle and move it across the other leg far enough to encounter the band’s resistance.
- ExRx.net: Thigh
- ExRx.net: Standing Groin Stretch
- American Council on Exercise: Standing Low Cable Hip Adduction
- Anatomy of Exercise; Pat Manocchia
- ExRx.net: Weighted Lying Hip Adduction
- American Council on Exercise: Whole-Body Exercise Band Workout
- American Council on Exercise: Standing Hip Adduction
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.