No leg day is complete without showing those inner thighs some love. Not only does having strong inner thighs look great, but it’s also functionally beneficial.
Too often the strength in our abductors overpowers that of our inner thighs, an imbalance that can create lasting damage in the long run. If you suffer from leg pain or can’t seem to get ahead on your lifts, weak inner thighs may be the culprit.
Your inner thigh muscles, or “adductors”, allow your legs to adduct. Adduction occurs when parts of the body move towards the midline, or the middle, of your body. Adduction is the opposite of abduction, which is the movement away from the midline. More simply, adduction of the legs occurs when you move your legs closer together or inward.
Your adductor muscles, or inner thighs, are very important stabilizers in the body. The adductor muscles include:
Having strong adductors has a plethora of benefits, such as:
The adductors provide support for the pelvis and protect the knees. While your abductors, or outer thigh muscles, work to rotate your legs outward, your adductors balance this by working to rotate the legs inward. With weak adductors, your legs can potentially cave or rotate inward, causing an unbalanced load to be placed on the knees.
This is a condition known as knee valgus.
Additionally, weak adductors can lead to groin strain. Groin strains can be highly painful and debilitating, and can potentially have you out of the gym for weeks.
A stronger inner thigh gives the ability of more power, drive, and movement. Furthermore, the adductors keep your legs balanced, distributing the load of the weight evenly. This is especially important in lifts such as squats in which you must resist the inward rotation of the femurs and knees.
Adequately strengthened adductors can potentially increase your lifts by providing more weight distribution and stability. Perhaps most importantly, strong adductors can help you achieve good lifting form, which can increase the weight you’re able to move.
While adductors are great in dynamic movements, they also provide a lot of help even when you’re just standing. When we stand, though we feel like we aren’t doing much, our muscles and joints work in harmony together to keep us supported and balanced.
When one muscle group is particularly weak, the body struggles, resulting in health-damaging adaptions, such as poor posture and weakness. Strong adductor muscles help keep your legs in line while supporting your body weight with ease. Furthermore, the strength of your adductors can affect the positioning of the hips, which can directly affect the spine and lower back and, therefore, your posture.
If lifting isn’t your thing, having strong inner thigh muscles is still highly beneficial and can greatly improve those running or cycling sessions. In addition to adduction, the inner thighs also aid in anterior and posterior movement.
Anterior refers to forward while posterior refers to behind, which are the exact movements you need to run or bike.Since adductors are known to assist in keeping the body balanced and the legs even loaded, this can help with an even and efficient exertion of energy. This allows you to run or cycle with more power and endurance.
Strong adductors are especially important for soccer players for many of the same reasons they are important for running and cycling. Additionally, the repetitive and explosive movement of running and kicking can be damaging to joints and muscles in the legs.
Strong adductors not only provide the potential for more powerful kicks and faster sprints but also lower the risk for soccer-related knee and groin injuries.The adductors also aid in the act of running followed by abruptly changing direction, which is common in both soccer and tennis.
The abrupt stop and change in direction requires strong stabilizers, such as the adductors, to protect the knees and hips during such harsh bodily movements. Additionally, strong adductors can help you kick off strongly in the other direction, leading to greater speeds and power and thus, a better game.
You may jump on the adductor machine for a few reps and call it a day. However, free movement and compound lifts can actually be far more beneficial and efficient in strengthening your inner thighs.
Often thought of as a quad or glute exercise, front lunges are also great at toning your inner thighs. Lunges and their many variations can be easily done with body weight and will still provide great exercise. However, you can target strength-building by utilizing dumbbells, held in each hand, or a barbell across your shoulders.
To do a forward lunge, simply stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place your hands at your sides. Some choose to rest their hands on their hips but be sure you aren’t using this hand placement for balance as this will take some of the work away from the legs. Maintain a neutral spine and a forward gaze for good posture.
Next, engage your core and step far out in front of you with your right foot. Your heel should be first in contact with the ground. As your right toes touch the ground, lower your hips downward. Now, your right knee should form a 90-degree angle point up while your left knee should form a 90-degree angle pointing down. The left knee should be just hovering above the floor.
Kick back to the starting position through the right heel. Repeat the movement several times, then switch to the left foot. You can choose to make this movement more dynamic by doing repetitions back to back very quickly or you can pause within the movement, challenging your body to be as stable as possible in the lunge.
Squats: another exercise we typically use to strengthen glutes, hamstrings, and quads. However, this highly efficient compound movement recruits the adductors for stabilization and balance, making squats an adductor-strengthening essential.
Sumo squats are especially great for mobility within the hips and adductors. You can use a loaded barbell or kettlebell if desired.To do a sumo squat, you’ll take a position that is a little wider than a conventional squat. This is typically just beyond shoulder width for your feet. Be sure to keep the toes pointed slightly out.
Check-in with the upper body, straightening the back and pushing your chest outward. This is especially vital when dealing with a downward compression on the spine, which occurs when using a barbell on the shoulders. Before beginning the movement, brace the core.
Now, begin lowering yourself down by bending at the hips and knees. Aim for a squat depth that is several inches below parallel for best results.Once you’ve reached depth, begin driving the movement back up to the starting position. To do this, maintain good posture and an engaged core. Keep the hip and knee movement fluid.
Lateral lunges, or side lunges, are not only great for strengthening the inner thigh, but can also provide a much-needed stretch. Like front lunges, a lateral lunge can be done with bodyweight or additional weight.To do a lateral lunge, stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and engage the core.
Next, take a large step out to the side with your right leg, keeping your toes pointed forward and using the heel to step. At the same time, move the hips down towards the ground, hinging slightly forward. Your back, although now at an angle with the floor, should still be straight.
To finish the movement, push off again with the heel and return to the starting position. Do this for several repetitions, then switch to the left foot. If you choose to use a kettlebell or dumbbell, hold the weight in the opposite hand than the foot you’re stepping out with. This helps create balance and avoids unnecessary movement.
Like lunges, squats are highly variable and many of these variations provide a great inner thigh workout. Prayer squats are more of a stretching exercise rather than a dynamic workout and work to increase the range of motion in the hips. However, you can add a kettlebell for added resistance and more strength-building potential.
To do a prayer squat, stand with your feet just beyond shoulder-width apart. Keep your spine elongated and your chest out. Next, lower your hips into a deep squat. Keep your knees in line with your toes and try to keep your hips open. Rest your elbows on the inner thigh for an added stretch.
Typically, the next step would be to push back through to the top of the movement. However, for a prayer squat, simply hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds. Feel the stretch in your inner thighs. You can play around with movement, moving slightly side to side or deepening the squat.
Another lunge variation: the curtsy lunge. This movement simply does not get enough credit. Like our other movements, this provides great exercise with just bodyweight. However, you can use a barbell or dumbbells for added resistance.
To start, stand with your feet hip-distance apart with one foot out in front of you.
Bring the other leg back behind you and inward. So if you stepped in front with the right foot, bring your left leg behind you and to the right. Your left leg should be fully extended with only your toes touching the ground. Your legs should be crossed.Next, brace the core and begin lowering your hips down until both knees form a 90-degree angle. Keep your knee in line with your toes. Your torso may lean slightly forward, but should still be straight with good posture.
Repeat for several reps, then switch to the other leg.
The plie (ple-ay) squat is a movement borrowed from ballet. A lot like the sumo squat, plie squats require a stance that is much wider than a conventional squat. Plie squats are common in training practices like pilates and are usually done with just body weight.
To do a plie squat, stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width and keep your toes pointed outwards. Brace the core and keep your torso tall and straight.
Next, raise your heels off the ground. This mimics the ballet pointe shoe. Slowly lower your hips down until you are parallel with your knees. For extra difficulty, hold this position.
To finish, raise your hips back up to the starting position, maintaining good posture. Your heels should still be off the ground so that you can go straight into the next rep and maintain intense muscle engagement.
Leg raises are perfect for those with less mobility but can easily be made harder for warm-up or full-on leg sessions. For this movement, you will need an area with soft ground, like a carpet or yoga mat. You can also add a resistance band just below the knee for a more difficult exercise.
To do a side leg raise, lay on the ground on your right side in a position that creates a nice neutral spine. Maintain a tight core. Next, begin the movement by slowly raising your left leg to about 45 degrees. Then, slowly lower the leg back down. Repeat this movement several times, then switch to the other side.
Clamshells are a lot like leg raises but works even more to target the glutes, which aid the inner thighs in the stabilization of the pelvis. To do this exercise, you will need a good amount of space and a soft floor, like a yoga mat or carpet. You can also choose to use a resistance band just above the knees for added difficulty.
To begin the exercise, lay on your right side, keeping a straight back. Next, bend slightly at the knees. Keeping your feet together, move your left knee away from your right knee, like a butterfly wing. Repeat this movement several times in a slow and controlled manner. Then, switch sides.
You might think the cossack squat is just a lateral lunge. However, the Cossack squat, while utilizing a lot of the same form, recruits slightly different muscle engagement and requires a different type of movement. Furthermore, it is much more dynamic in nature. You can hold a kettlebell for added resistance.
To do the Cossack squat, take a very wide stance. Next, brace the core and check in with your posture. Next, begin lowering your hips to the right side, bending the right knee in as you go. The left foot should remain planted, forcing the leg to straighten. Your left toes can come off the ground.
Aim for a very deep squat. This will give your inner thighs a good stretch as well as build some strength. Maintain an upright posture and avoid bending forward too much. Be sure your hips lean slightly back during the movement and you keep the bent knee pointed outward.
The Copenhagen plank is truly one of the single best movements for the adductors. It does require a bit more physical ability upfront, but can be simplified if needed. For this movement, you will need a good amount of space and a stable surface. A workout bench is ideal.
To do this exercise, get in a side plank position. Maintain good posture and focus on stability through the core. Lift the top leg on top of the bench and rest it there. Bring your bottom leg up to touch the underside of the bench. Your hips should be raised off the floor and in line with your body.
If a Copenhagen plank is too difficult for you, you can keep the bottom leg rested on the ground for support. Hold this position for 20-30 seconds. Repeat several times, then switch to the other side.
If you aren’t including your adductors on your lower body days, here is your sign to start! Strong inner thighs are necessary for boosting your major lifts and getting you on the way to major gains.
We’ve done the work for you by compiling a list of the best inner thigh exercises to add to your strength training routine.
While these exercises can do a lot for your inner thighs on their own, remember that a large protein and calorie intake is usually needed in order to build muscle.