Firm, toned inner thighs are every woman’s dream! The inner thigh is a common problem area for many of us. Often, concerns seem to range from one end of the spectrum to the other. Some women complain that the inner thigh area is flabby, while others wish their thighs wouldn’t rub together. I hear these complaints often from new members who are embarking on a new fitness routine and from those who have lost weight but want to sculpt those last vestiges of a once-larger lower body. Even women who are seasoned exercisers are unsure of the proper way to target this hard-to-tone area. Rest assured—it can be done! Armed with the right knowledge and skills, you can achieve firm, toned inner thighs! Though genetics determine the basic structure of your lower body, we can achieve amazing results with what has been naturally endowed to us.
The hip adductor group is the technical name for the muscles involved in bringing the leg inward, toward the midline of the body. This group includes several muscles. Of specific interest are the adductor magnus, brevis, longus, gracilis, and pectineus. These muscles are responsible for moving the leg toward the center, or axis, of your body. The hip adductors need to be trained with a variety of exercises, 1 or 2 times per week, to achieve desired results. Remember, your muscles heal on your “off days”! Do not train an area intensely every day. You risk injury and will impede your results. If you are sore, work another body part. In addition, working the inner thigh muscles too intensely, before you are prepared, can lead to muscle strain and even groin pulls! Start with lighter weight or resistance and build your intensity as you feel ready. Here are a few exercises for toning and firming the inner thigh area. These are some of my personal favorites—because they work!
1. The plié. I enjoy this exercise because it requires no equipment and is a multi-joint move. It works all of the larger, major muscles in the lower body. One receives a lot of extra calorie burn and subsequent fat burn by working these muscles together. The plié targets the inner thighs (abductors), glutes, quadriceps (front of the thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh), and even the calves and core!
First, stand with your feet a few inches wider then shoulder-width apart—or bit wider if it’s not too uncomfortable. If you like, you can put a medicine ball or dumbbell in your hands for added resistance. Tilt your pelvic area toward the wall or mirror in front of you, and keep your back straight (i.e., neutral, or erect). Do not arch your back! Point your toes outward, not directly forward: you will not target your inner thighs without this one important positioning of your feet! Lower your hips down toward the floor, until you reach about a 90 degree angle in your knees, then hold for 1-2 counts before raising your hips back up. Don’t lock out your knees upon elevation, between repetitions; always keep the knees slightly bent for protection. Continue lowering and lifting, with a slight pause at the bottom, for 12-25 repetitions. You can rest or recover for about 30-60 seconds then do 2 or 3 mores sets as you become stronger. One of my favorite things to do, when I want to feel the burn quickly, is to add a set of pulses to the end of my sets. Stay low and pulse by quickly moving your hips up and down in short, small repetitions, until you feel fatigue in the entire lower body region. Remember to keep your back straight and hips tilted forward during the pulses, as you will be tempted to lose form from fatigue. Exhale as you elevate and contract your abdominal area. Rest or stop if you need to. Then move on.
2. The hip abduction machine. This machine targets the adductors beautifully. Sit on the machine and make sure the thighs are wide enough apart to feel a slight stretch in your inner thigh area. (There is a handle for adjustment.) By pointing your toes, you will take a bit of the calf muscle out of the equation, therefore emphasizing the inner thighs more; however, this is not necessary. When you use this machine properly, you will also be engaging your PFMs (pelvic floor muscles) and abdominals, as well, so don’t go too heavy with the weight. Groin pulls are serious and unfortunate and can happen as a result of excessive muscle strain. Start light with the weight, even 10 or 20 pounds until you know how your body will respond. Exhale as you close your legs and tighten your abs at the same time. Hold the legs in the contracted (closed) position for about 1-2 counts, then inhale as you open and release the contraction. Complete 12-25 repetitions in this fashion, and pause between sets for about 30-60 seconds. Again, build your strength slowly. If you need to start with one set for a couple of weeks, that is fine; you will feel results immediately and begin seeing them shortly! You may be up to 40 pounds or more in a short period of time! When you are ready, begin increasing to 2, 3, or 4 sets at higher weight with a rest period of 30-60 seconds in betweens sets.
3. Cable adductions. Stand next to a cable machine with a strap around one ankle, the leg that is closest to the machine. Hold your hand on the machine for support, and keep your back straight. Stay light with the weight, especially in the beginning—you don’t want to strain your knees or back! Bend the other leg slightly and tighten the gluteal muscles (buttocks) on that side (this is your supporting, or standing, leg.) Move the other leg, the one with the cable strap around it, across the front of your body and toward your midline. If you can cross your other leg by a few inches, great! Point your toe and hold in this position for 1 or 2 counts. You are exhaling and contracting your abs (tightening them) as you adduct, or move your leg to the side. Face the side of the cable machine so you can get a longer range of motion with the inner leg. Repeat 12-25 times, resting between sets, and repeat for 1 to 3 sets; you can do 4 sets as you become stronger. Then turn, change sides, and repeat all sets on the other leg.
Always stretch your inner thighs to prevent injury when you complete your workout. To do this, stand in plié position and bend the leg to one side. Do not let your knee pass your toe line! Hold for 30 seconds and change sides. If you are bending over, be sure to support your back with your hands on your thighs or a surface such as a bench.
Our Total Body classes target the inner thigh area and are great ways to tone all over! These classes can be done 1 or 2 days per week, and our certified class instructors offer great tips on form and breathing techniques. If you are unsure about form at anytime, ask one of our certified personal trainers. Remember, we are here to help you! I hope you enjoy these exercises—and your firm, toned inner thighs as a result!