Adduction: Definition, Example & Exercises

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  • 0:00 Our Bodies in Motion
  • 0:35 Adduction: Definition
  • 1:35 Examples of Adduction
  • 3:00 Muscles & Exercise
  • 4:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Catherine Konopka

Catherine has taught various college biology courses for 5 years at both 2-year and 4-year institutions. She has a Ph.D. in cell and molecular biology.

The human body can move in many different ways and directions. You will learn about one of the terms we use to describe the movements of the human body in this lesson: adduction.

Our Bodies in Motion

Our bodies are amazing! While all the systems of the body hold a great many mysteries, the way our bodies move is fascinating. Just think of all the ways in which you can move! And not just as a whole; each body part can move independently from other body parts.

Of course, with all of these possibilities, clinicians, fitness professionals, and researchers need a common language to describe the movements of our bodies. We can't just depend on 'up', 'down', 'right', and 'left' because bending your knee will result in different types of movement depending on whether you are standing up or lying down.

Adduction: Definition

When describing movements of the body, we generally refer to what joint is moving (such as the shoulder or wrist) or what part is moving (such as the leg or finger) and what type of movement it is doing. Movement can occur in one plane, like with a knee bend, or in multiple planes such as with a shoulder roll.

Adduction occurs when a joint moves a part of the body toward the midline in one plane. The midline is an imaginary line running from the top of the head to between the feet while standing up straight, traveling through the abdominal cavity along the way. In contrast, abduction is the opposite of adduction, or a movement away from the midline.

Adduction is movement toward a midline. Abduction is movement away from a midline. Your body as a whole, as well as individual limbs, have midlines as shown.
Adduction versus Abduction

The easiest way to remember the difference is that an adduction movement 'adds' something to the body by bringing it closer. Abduction means 'kidnapping', as in taking something further away from the midline. The various appendages of the human body also have midlines. For instance, the midline of the hand runs through the middle of the palm out through the middle finger.

Examples of Adduction

Before we get started with the examples, note that adduction does not have to be all or nothing. Just moving your limbs a little bit is still adduction.

  • Adduction of the shoulder/arm: The upper arm (humerus bone) moves from a position straight out from the body in towards the body. Because of the large range of motion of this ball-and-socket joint, the shoulder is also capable of horizontal adduction. In this case, the upper arm moves from a position straight out from the body and moves toward the midline with the arm remaining parallel to the floor.
  • Adduction of the hip/leg: The upper leg (femur bone) moves from an outward, inverted-V position inward towards the other leg.
  • Adduction of the fingers: The fingers (metacarpals) start in a splayed out position and move together.
  • Adduction of the vocal cords: The vocal cords are abducted, or pulled out to the side, when not speaking to make it easier to breathe. They are adducted, or moved to the center of your larynx, when you speak so that air can move past them to create sound.

Sometimes movements that are adduction/abduction can also be classified using other terms of movements. For instance, tilting your head from side to side is both adduction/abduction of the head AND lateral flexion. In such cases, one classification is more commonly used. For head tilting, the medical community has collectively decided to refer to this particular motion as lateral flexion.

Muscles and Exercise

All movements of the body are performed by muscles. Adduction is no exception. Some of the muscles that adduct have add in their name, but some don't. Some adductions and the muscles that contract with the movement include:

  • Adduction of the leg: adductor magnus, adductor longus, adductor brevis, gracilis, and pectineus.
  • Adduction of the arm: latissimus dorsi, pectoralis major, subscapularis, teres major, teres minor, coracobrachialis, and triceps brachii
  • Adduction of the fingers: palmar interossei muscles
  • Adduction of the big toe: adductor hallucis

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