The inner-thigh region is one of the most commonly neglected muscle areas, according to experts.
“Most of our day is spent going in forwards or backwards motions, so we seldom develop strong inner thighs. They only really come to play when we make lateral or side-to-side movements,” says Roger E. Adams, PhD, Houston-based dietitian, nutritionist, and founder of Eat Right Fitness.
The good news, however, is that anyone can tone or strengthen this area, as hard has it may seem.
The secret is knowing the right moves to help target and fine-tune inner thigh muscles. To help you tighten this area, we asked top trainers to divvy up their best inner thigh exercises.
Is your leg workout complete? If you’re like most people, you’re not actively targeting your inner thigh muscles when you work out.
They are easy to neglect, after all. The quads, butt, and hamstrings often take center stage on leg day, but the inner thighs should not be ignored. They’re crucial for strength, stability, and a long, lean look.
We’ve found six of the best exercises to tone this problem area. The best part? You can finish this inner thigh workout in a matter of minutes!
Also known as side lunges, this inner thigh exercise is a great starting point for muscle toning. This exercise works to strengthen your quads, glutes, and hamstrings, but it also blasts the fat in your inner and outer thighs.
“It incorporates integrated movement into the training of the adductors and hits the glutes along with the adductors to give you a calorie burn,” explains Cary Raffle, CPT, an orthopedic exercise specialist in New York City.
“It’s also quite versatile, since you can add weight, add speed, [and] incorporate a step-to balance and exercises such as biceps curls or lateral raises.”
One of the reasons this exercise is so important is that we don’t often experience this movement in our daily lives. Trainer Rachel Mariotti points out that we don’t tend to walk down the street sideways!
To do this exercise, start with your feet together. Then take a large step to the side and lower into a lunge. Keep your hips back as you go down and avoid hinging your upper body too far forward. Push off with the same foot and return to your starting position. Repeat 8 to 12 times, and then switch legs. Aim for three sets on each side.
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Squats are one of the best exercises you can do. Not only do they strengthen and tone your legs, but they also give you more flexible joints and make you a better overall athlete. Jason Fitzgerald, USATF certified coach, says you could even notice some benefits to your core, especially if you add weights.
To make squats hit the inner thighs, Sports Scientist Elesa Zehndorfer, Ph.D., suggests standing with your legs wider than normal, toes pointed outwards. Also known as the “sumo squat,” it’s easy to make this move more or less intense, depending on your experience level.
“You can add a bar or dumbbells for extra weight or make it a ‘goblet squat’ by holding a dumbbell (these are a great home gym addition) in both hands to your chest before executing the squat,” she says.
To perform the sumo squat, Dr. Adams recommends standing with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders, keeping your torso as erect and upright as possible. The wider stance is similar to position a sumo wrestler takes, hence the name.
While bending your knees, lower your butt down below the level of your knees. “Be sure to keep your toes pointing outward, but in line with your knees the entire time. And try not to turn your toes in,” he says.
“As you come up from this squat, push your knees out. This will really help load your heels, and help bring in the inner thigh even more.” Keep your knees and toes straight to prevent knee injury.
Also, keep your chest open, engage your abs, and then squat down. As you squat, maintain an upright position in your lower body. Do not bend forward.
Sumo squats are also called plié squats (which we repeat below with a variation), which is a barre exercise that ballerinas do during their warmups. Do three sets of 15 to 20 reps, and if this exercise feels too easy, hold onto a dumbbell for an added challenge.
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Fitness Ball Squeezes
If you were alive in the ‘80s, you probably remember Suzanne Somers and her infamous Thigh Master. Its claim to fame was that you could “squeeze your way to firmer thighs” by placing it between your legs and compressing it. In reality, you don’t need a fancy piece of equipment like this to get the same effect. A simple apparatus at your local gym will do trick.
“Find an exercise ball where you can put your legs on either side (like this best seller). You may have to use a smaller one than you usually use for crunches,” says Dr. Adams.
“Lie down on your back, bend your knees, and place the ball between your legs, squeezing the ball for ten seconds as hard as you can and then relax for two seconds.” To make this move more challenging, he suggests trying to raise the ball off the floor as you squeeze.
Do 20 reps on that side, then switch to the other side.
Cable Hip Adduction
The seated adductor machine may be the easy and obvious choice for targeting the inner thigh muscles. However, Raffle says that it’s not the best.
“It actually combines hip internal rotation with hip adduction, because of the angled position at the hip. And seated exercises burn fewer calories, so it’s less effective at toning,” he says.
Cable hip adduction, on the other hand, is a more targeted way to work the inner thigh. This is usually done with an ankle cuff attached to a pulley.
He suggests starting with a low weight. If it’s still too heavy you can move it up higher onto the leg.
“Take a wide stance and slowly move your legs together and apart,” he says. “You will need to slightly bend [at] your hip and knee so that the moving leg can move through the full range of motion without scraping the floor.”
This classic ballet move can’t be performed perfectly without strong thighs. You can only imagine the wonders it works for this muscle area.
“When I was a junior associate at the Royal Ballet, we did this move about a million times, and it’s a staple of most barre classes all over,” says Dr. Zehndorfer.
To start, stand upright in first position (stand with your heels together and toes pointed outwards). Holding gently onto a barre, high chair, or table, move into the downward plié position (bend slightly at the knees, keeping your body upright) and then return up, she explains.
This move is identical to the Sumo Squat mentioned earlier except the Plié Squat as described here involves holding onto a surface for balance. However, this is optional. The other potential difference between a Sumo Squat and a Plié Squat is that the sumo position may be wider.
As you reach the bottom of your plié, your thighs should be parallel to the ground. Do not go any lower than that.
Keep your weight in your heels to maintain balance and ensure you’re in the right alignment.
Continue as many reps as those thighs can handle!
This side-step movement causes the inner thigh to work hard at generating movement, but also stabilizing your knee, explains Dr. Adams.
To perform this inner thigh exercise, find a bench or chair (or a top reviewed platform like this) that will support your weight, as you’ll need to step on it!
“Standing beside the bench, step onto it sideways, keeping your foot flat and your trailing leg up. And then carefully step down, maintaining your sideways position the entire time,” says Dr. Adams.
“It’s important that you avoid rotating your hips or torso so that you’re facing the bench. This makes it a simple step-up.” Do as many side step-ups as you can before switching to the other side.
To make this move more challenging, Dr. Adams suggests adding extra weight with either a dumbbell or medicine ball. You can also add a cardio component by moving quickly. Just be careful to maintain proper form and watch your step!
Add these inner thigh exercises to your weekly workout routine to target this hard to reach area and to keep your thighs sculpted and toned.
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