It seems like even after my hardest leg workout, I still don’t exactly “feel” my inner thighs. But it’s so hard to activate them—what are some exercises I can do to get those muscles working? —Sophia M.
Such a good question. The adductors and abductors are the muscle groups on the inside and outside of your legs, respectively, and they’re notoriously difficult to spot-treat. Sure, strong inner thighs always look better than weak ones, but that’s not all they do. Strengthening the insides of your legs will also help prevent knee and ankle injuries as well as improve your posture. Not a bad perk, right?
Because the surrounding leg muscles are so powerful (think quadriceps, hamstrings, and even hip rotators and glutes), it’s easy for the adductor and abductor muscles to get sort of “lazy” and let others take over. So even if you’re doing an exercise that’s meant to isolate those inner thighs, you might find that other leg muscles start working instead, especially as you begin to get tired.
While these five movements don’t target only the inner thighs, they’ll definitely force them to work (besides, who wants strong inner thighs but weak everything else?). I highly suggest grabbing a buddy to do this quick workout together—it’ll go by more quickly, because there’s just something about laughing with a friend that can seriously ease the pain of tough moves like these!
Cross back curtsy lunge
Do: 20 reps
Start standing up straight and tall with your toes pointing straight forward. With your shoulders and hips still facing forward, send your right foot back behind you on a diagonal as you come into a lunge position. Hold for a moment, and then come back to the center and switch to the other foot. While you’re doing this, keep your abs pulled in and your spine erect—this will keep any pressure off your lower back.
Tap down squat jumps
Do: 20 reps
With your feet as wide as your shoulders, drop your hips into a deep squat position and tap your hand to the ground. Jump both feet back to the center, and then repeat the same squat jump, this time tapping down with the other hand. Maintain a straight, strong spine as you do this—your hips should always be lower than your shoulders to really make this effective. You’ll definitely feel your heart rate come up as you get through this (cardio, y’all!) but keep pushing through!
Side lunge pulses
Do: 15 reps
Here’s a two-parter! Stand tall with your feet together, pointing straight forward. Step out laterally with the right leg, coming into a wide side lunge. Push off your right foot and come to balance on your left leg, drawing your right knee in front of your body. That’s step one. For step two, lunge out to the side again, come back to the center to stand with your feet together, then lift your leg directly to the side. Put these together, and you’ve got a killer inner thigh set!
Sumo squats with heel lifts
Do: 20 reps; 1 reps is equal to lifting the right heel and then the left heel
Well that was fun! Let’s kick it up a notch, because you’re almost done. Step your feet a little wider than your shoulders, pointing your toes at about a 40-degree angle to the side. Sit really low in a “sumo” squat: your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle, with the ankles tracking directly under the knees. K, now hold it … forever. Kidding! But seriously, hold here, maintaining that low squat, and alternate lifting your heels as high as you can. Try your best not to move any other part of your body—it’s just the heels that are moving here.
Boat pose with yoga block
Do: 15 reps
And for our final trick, we’ll get some abs and inner thighs in—’cause why not? Sit on a yoga mat with your hands directly behind you, fingers facing your hips. Place a yoga block, rolled up towel, or pillow between your feet and extend your legs directly out in front of you as you balance on your bum. Grip the yoga block (it’s going to want to fall, trust me!) and slowly lower your legs about two inches, hold, and bring them back to your starting point.
I tricked my friend Stef—and Thrive Market’s Director of Partnerships—into doing this whole workout, and the next day she said couldn’t walk. Hey, that’s a successful sweat session in my book! Try this out on your own, and let me know how it works for you in the comments below.