Your inner thighs are made up from three main muscles which are collectively called your adductors meaning they draw your leg in toward the midline of your body. The three muscles that make up this area are your adductor longus, brevis and magnus meaning long, short and big respectively.
Not that you need to know the names of these muscles to give them a good workout of course. Any movement where your inner thighs work to pull your thighs inward or prevent them from being push outward will strengthen and tone your adductors.
There are numerous ways you can work your inner thighs and as variety is the spice of life, it’s always good to have plenty of exercise options available so your workouts never get dull or repetitive.
So here are 15 great inner thigh toning and strengthening exercises to try. Don’t go and do them all in the same workout. Instead, choose a couple and use them for a few weeks and then change to different exercises. That way you should never get bored.
1. Side-lying hip adductions
This aerobic class favorite is simple but effective although you may find you need to perform a lot of repetitions to feel much benefit if your adductors are already quite strong.
How to: Lie on your side with your hips stacked and your head resting on your upper arm. Bend your top leg and place your foot on the floor in front of your knee. Lift your lower leg off the floor as high as you can. Lower your leg back to the floor and repeat.
2. Seated stability ball knee squeeze
The key to this exercise is squeezing your knees together as hard and as long as you can!
How to: Sit astride your stability ball so your knees are pointing downward. Put your hands on the front of the ball in front of your hips for balance. Squeeze your knees inward as hard as you can. Try not to hold your breath or tense your arms and shoulders. Relax, rest and the repeat!
3. Supine towel gym mat knee squeeze
This exercise is a variation of the ball knee squeeze but without the balance requirement and need for a stability ball.
How to: Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Place a rolled towel or exercise mat between your knees. Push your knees together as hard as you can and hold for as long as you can. Rest a moment and then repeat.
4. Cable hip adductions
Cable hip adductions require access to a low pulley machine and an ankle cuff but if you have both of those items, you have everything you need for an effective inner thigh workout.
How to: Fix the cuff around your ankle and clip it to the low pulley. Step to the side away from the machine to tension the cable. Holding an exercise bench for balance, draw your leg in and across your supporting leg and then extend it back and out to the side. Aim for around 90-degrees of movement – 45 each direction.
5. Sumo squats
Squats are usually thought of as a quadriceps or thigh exercise but using a very wide stance means your inner thighs get in on the action too.
How to: Stand with your feet around 1.5 to two shoulder-widths apart. Turn your feet out slightly so they are point in the same direction as your knees. Push your butt back and squat down as far as your flexibility allows. Stand back up and repeat. Hold dumbbells in your hands or a barbell across your shoulders for a more intense workout.
6. Lateral lunges
Like squats, lunges are not normally considered an inner thigh exercise but by moving sideways instead of backward and forward, your adductors get a great workout.
How to: Stand with your legs together and arms by your sides. Step out to your left and bend your left leg while keeping your right leg straight. Lower your butt toward the floor without rounding your lower back. Push off your left leg and return to the starting position and then do an identical repetition to the opposite side. Hold dumbbells in your hands or a barbell across your shoulders for a harder training effect.
7. Seated hip adduction machine
The hip adduction or inner thigh machine is a no-brainer of an adductor exercise but that doesn’t mean it is not effective – just very simple to perform.
How to: Sit on the machine with your inner knees against the pads. After having selected the appropriate weight, squeeze your knees together until you can’t go any further. Lower the weight by letting your knees spread apart and repeat. Use the largest safe range of movement you comfortably can.
8. Stability ball wall squat and knee squeeze
Combining the mighty squat with a knee squeeze makes this a superb total leg exercise that places an emphasis on your inner thighs.
How to: Take a stability ball and place it between your knees – use a small diameter ball e.g. 45-cm size. Place a larger ball between your lower back and a wall. Position your feet so that they are around 18-inches away from a wall. Squat down until your knees are bent to 90-degrees while pushing your thighs together against the ball – squeeze hard! Stand back up and repeat.
9. Side lying stability ball adductor squeeze
This floor-based exercise allows you work your adductors while lying down and as all you need is a stability ball and an exercise mat, it’s an ideal home workout.
How to: Lie on your side with your stability ball down by your feet. Rest the side of your upper foot on the ball. Push your foot down against the ball as hard as you can either for reps or for one long hold. On completion of your set, roll over and repeat on the opposite leg.
10. Total hip machine hip adductions
As the name suggests, this machine allows you to work your hips effectively and thoroughly in a variety of ways.
How to: To work your inner thighs, swing the lever arm up and out to 90-degrees and stand facing the machine. With your left leg in the center of the footplate, swing your right leg up and out so the inside of your knee is resting on the pad. Draw your right leg down and across your left leg and then return to the starting position. Perform the same number of repetitions on your opposite leg.
11. Thigh toner knee squeezes
A thigh toner is a sort of V-shaped foam-covered spring designed to work your inner thigh muscles. Many people have bought one of these devices – they are a big seller on the shopping network – so it makes sense to use it if you have one tucked away somewhere.
How to: Sit on a chair with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Place the thigh toner between your knees. Squeeze your knees together and then open your legs again. You can also perform this exercise while lying on your back if preferred.
12. Resistance band standing hip adduction
Resistance bands can be used to replicate a great many freeweight and strength training machines. In this instance, it’s a low cable machine that is being replaced.
How to: Fix your resistance band to a sturdy low anchor such as a heavy table leg. Fix the other end around your ankle. Move away from the anchor to tension the bend. Keep your knee straight and draw your leg in and across your supporting leg against the resistance offered by the band. Use a chair for balance if necessary. Perform the same number of repetitions on both legs.
13. Butterfly hip adduction
This simple requires no equipment at all – you provide the resistance yourself. This means it’s an ideal choice for exercising at home or when you are away from the gym.
How to: Sit on the floor with your legs bent and soles of your feet together. Put your hands on the inside of your knees and sit up tall. Push your knees up against the resistance offered by your hands. Slowly allow your knees to lift up. Push them back down and repeat. The harder you push with your arms, the slower your legs will move. Find the balance between pushing so hard your legs don’t move at all and not hard enough so the exercise is too easy. Your inner thighs should be fatigued within around eight to twelve repetitions.
14. Lateral step-ups
Step-ups are a great way to tone and strengthen your thighs but done using a lateral or sideways movement they also work your inner thighs very effectively.
How to: Stand sideways on to a knee-high step. Place your foot on the step and then stand up onto it. Step straight back down and repeat. On completion, turn around and perform the same number of repetitions with your opposite leg.
15. Weighted side-lying hip adductions
This exercise is a weighted version of the old aerobics class inner thigh classic.
How to: Lie on your side with your hips square and your arm resting down on your arm. Lift your upper leg and bend your knee. Place your foot flat on the floor in front of your lower leg. Rest and hold a barbell or body bar down along the inside of your thigh. Lift your leg up against the resistance offered by the weight. Lower your leg back to the floor and repeat. On completion, roll over and work your opposite leg.
Strong, toned inner thighs are important for aesthetics as well as knee and hip health so it’s well worth including some of these excellent exercises in your normal leg workout. Work your adductors two or three times a week for best results and try to work harder from one week to the next by performing more reps, more sets or using a slightly heavier weight.