The Ultimate Exercise Guide to Building the Inner Thighs
Table of Contents
- Anatomy of the inner thigh
- 8 Exercises to tone your inner thighs
- Injury prevention and success tips
Strengthening the inner thigh muscles is vital for injury prevention, improved performance, and also aesthetics, if desired. Placing a little extra emphasis on these muscles can go a long way, and these exercises are very resourceful, whether you’ve got access to weight equipment or not.
Lately, lower body training has seen a sharp focus on training the abductors to give the glutes that full, round look. But you shouldn’t neglect the adductors, as they also help create that strong silhouette to enhance your glute training.
In this article, we’ll do a brief overview of inner thigh anatomy and a detailed discussion of the best exercises to do to develop the inner thigh area. The inner thigh workout below will include bodyweight options and various movements incorporating dumbbells and resistance bands.
Anatomy of the inner thigh
When we want to train the “inner thigh,” what muscles are we talking about exactly? The thigh muscles include the adductors, hamstrings, pectineus, quadriceps, and sartorius. The adductors are the muscles located on the inner part of the thigh and will be the focus of this article.
The adductors are made up of five different muscles:
- Adductor Brevis
- Adductor Longus
- Adductor Magnus
- Obturator Externus
Each muscle inside the thigh runs from the pelvis to the inferior aspect of the femur bone.
The adductor’s primary function with movement is to bring the thighs inward toward each other. This motion is referred to as “adduction.” Another critical role of these muscles is to provide stability during daily activities and support explosive movements, such as jumping and running. The inner thigh muscles are essential for hip strength and mobility.
You’re probably starting to connect the dots already, and this will continue to make more sense as we share each of the exercises below. Many of the exercise names include the words adduction or adductors.
Let’s look at this best inner thigh workout to build strong and resilient inner thighs.
8 Exercises to tone your inner thighs
#1 Sumo squat
A sumo squat is a traditional squat variation, except using a much wider stance. Sumo squats are one of the best leg exercises because they are multi-joint primary movement patterns. You will be training the inner thigh muscles aggressively and synergistically, working all the muscles around the leg. The more muscles you can recruit during an exercise, the better.
Sumo squats can be performed using bodyweight only or with weighted equipment, such as dumbbells.
- Space feet just outside of shoulder width with toes turned out slightly.
- Keeping weight on the midfoot/heel, flex the knees and push the hips back and down (instead of just back during usual squats).
- Lower your butt toward the floor until your thighs are parallel or below.
- Keep your chest tall and head up.
- Push your feet into the floor and stand up.
- This is one repetition.
3-5 sets of 10-12 reps per set.
- Increase the repetitions to 15-20 reps if you’re doing bodyweight only.
- Hold a dumbbell in the “goblet” position if adding weight.
- Increasing the weight will require decreasing the repetitions.
#2 Reverse lunge
No inner thigh exercise article would be complete without recommending lunges. Lunges are excellent for training the quadriceps, gluteus maximus, and adductor magnus. The best exercises train a broad scope of muscles all at once. The reverse lunge is appropriately named since the motion of the movement is to step backward and lower your knee toward the floor.
- From a standing position, take a significant step backward and find the floor with the ball of the foot.
- Lower your body straight down to the floor until the knee cap of the rear leg touches the floor gently.
- Push forward on the back leg to return to the standing position
If you’re practicing bodyweight reverse lunges, increase the repetitions since the legs are strong and the resistance is low. 3-5 sets of 12+ repetitions per leg will create a sound stimulus.
If using dumbbells for added resistance, aim for 3-5 sets of 6-8 reps per side.
- Avoid horizontal translation when lowering down to the floor.
- Keep your chest tall, eyes forward, and jaw relaxed.
- Hold the dumbbells at the sides or chest height.
- Gradually add weight to these exercises for ongoing gains.
#3 Walking forward lunge
Unlike the reverse lunge, the walking forward lunge is a dynamic exercise that will have you moving from one spot to another. This exercise aims to control the entire duration of the walk, planting the feet softly, lowering with control, and rising to start the next repetition with confidence and ownership.
- Start in a standing position and step one foot forward, roughly 18-24 inches.
- Plant the foot softly and continue lowering down to the floor.
- Squeeze the front leg, thigh, and glute to stand up and move forward into the next repetition.
3-5 sets of 6-8 reps per leg will create a significant stimulus. Alternate legs on each repetition.
- Keep your chest tall and eyes forward.
- Foot contacts with the floor should be quiet and soft.
- Hold the dumbbells at the sides in the “suitcase” style position.
#4 Lateral lunge
The lateral lunge not only strengthens the inner thighs but also stretches the adductor muscles of the non-working leg simultaneously. Maintaining flexibility is critical for injury-free movement. Having adequate flexibility also allows you to train through a greater range of motion, delivering superior results from a strength and muscle perspective.
The most significant difference between the lateral lunge and the other lunge variations is the direction of the step. In this variation, you will step out to the side (versus behind or in front).
- From a shoulder-width apart standing position, take a giant step to the side with the right or left leg (your choice).
- After the step, flex the knee and push the hips back while you lower your butt to the floor.
- Aim to lower the thighs to parallel with the floor or below. Send your knee in the same direction your toes are pointing (don’t let it cave in or go too wide).
- Push out of the lunge and back to the standing position.
- Alternate legs or complete all reps on one side before moving to the next.
3-5 sets of 8-10 reps per side will work wonders if you’re training bodyweight only.
- Avoid taking too big of a step out.
- Be careful to avoid overstraining the adductors.
- Lower down with control and push back to the start position with power!
#5 Side-lying adductor lift-offs
This deceptively tricky exercise looks innocent, but it isolates the adductors in a low-impact yet brutally effective way. Side-lying adductor lift-offs are an excellent exercise for preventing or rehabilitating groin strains and building the inner thigh musculature.
- Lying down, support yourself on the elbow with the top leg crossed over and flexing in front of the body.
- Raise the bottom leg off the floor as high as possible.
- Pause at the top for 1-2 seconds.
- Lower back to the floor with control.
3 sets of 15 reps per leg.
- Avoid jostling or assistance from any other body part (isolate the adductors).
- Perform for higher repetitions.
- Add light ankle weights for added resistance and gains.
- Take notice of any right or left side strength differences.
#6 Standing hip adduction
This unique exercise is a part of our inner thigh workout with bands. When performing this exercise, use a stretch band for added resistance. The premise is to pull against the band’s resistance until the feet touch the ankle bones. Anchor the exercise band to an immovable object.
- Anchor a resistance band to an immovable object and loop the open end of the band around one ankle. It may be a nice alternative to using gym equipment.
- Take several steps away from the anchor point until the band is tensioned.
- Hovering the foot an inch above the floor, pull the floating foot toward the weight-bearing foot.
- Pause for 1-2 seconds, then slowly allow the band to pull the foot back to the start position.
3 sets of 15 reps per leg.
- Avoid any jostling of the upper body.
- Stand tall and remain upright (no leaning).
- Use a thicker band for more resistance as you get stronger.
- This exercise can be practiced for higher repetitions.
#7 Horse stance
The horse stance is a unique bodyweight exercise that works strength, stability, and flexibility.
- The wider the stance, the more the adductors are required to stretch.
- The lower the stance, the more the leg muscles (glutes, quads, adductors) must fire to hold the position.
The rolled under pelvis position will also strengthen the pelvic floor, another benefit of the exercise.
- Separate the feet outside shoulder width, chest tall, eyes forward.
- Turn the toes slightly outward, flex the knees and sink the butt as far as possible.
- Roll the pelvis under by squeezing the glutes and lifting the belt line upward.
- Find the lowest tolerable position and hold for time.
5 sets of maximum hold per set.
- Sink low into the stance until you feel a stretch inside the legs/hips.
- Breathe deeply and relax the jaw.
- Keep weight on the midfoot and heel.
- Grip the floor with your feet.
- Brace your core.
- Use a dowel for feedback on depth.
#8 90/90 Adductor hovers
The 90/90 position is fantastic for hip mobility training, and the hovers will effectively condition the inner thigh muscles. 90/90 Adductor Hovers is another bodyweight-based exercise you can do virtually anywhere.
- Sit on the floor with the front leg 90 degrees internally rotated, and the back leg externally rotated around the torso.
- Place one hand inside the front thigh and the other outside the front thigh, pressing firmly into the floor.
- Lift the front leg and articulate it forward until the foot is away from the body with the knee straight and toes up.
- Reverse the motion and bring the leg back into the 90-degree position.
3 sets of 8 reps per leg.
- If you cannot fully hover the leg off the floor, it’s ok; skimming lightly against the floor works.
- Slow down the movement for added intensity and challenge.
- Add ankle weights to progress the difficulty further.
Injury prevention and success tips
No matter the exercise, paying close attention to technique is vital for avoiding injuries and maximizing the benefits of the exercise. Controlling every inch of the movement’s outward/inward or upward/downward portions will strengthen the muscles and, over time, improve lean body mass in the process. You can also use fitness apps to see the correct technique for every exercise and incorporate them into your workout routine.
Most of the exercises shared today can be practiced using bodyweight only or added weight to increase the difficulty level. For beginners, start with bodyweight repetitions to get a feel for the demands of each movement. Once you’ve mastered the technique and built a strong foundation, don’t be afraid to add weight to the exercise to keep the gains coming.