6 Great Exercises for Toning Inner Thighs

Sport & Activity

Burn fat and build muscle with these inner-thigh exercises you can do at home or in the gym during leg day.

Last updated: 25 October 2021
7 min read
Best Exercises for Toning Inner Thighs

It's undeniable that strong thighs help performance. Incorporating inner-thigh exercises into your workout routine will have noticeable benefits.

Below are 6 exercises to get you started.

You Should Know

The inner-thigh muscles, or adductors, contain five different muscles—the gracilis, pectineus, adductor longus, adductor brevis and adductor magnus. These muscles allow for movement towards the midline of the body, acting to stabilise other movements.

Incorporating resistance training exercises that focus on strengthening the inner-thigh muscles will help to shed unwanted fat and build lean muscle. This will transfer into performance benefits as you gain overall lower-body strength and build a stronger foundation for the hips and core.

Combining compound lifts like sumo squats and lateral lunges, with isolation exercises like side-lying leg lifts is the best way to work your inner thighs, by activating and recruiting key muscles in the lower body to build strength.

1. Clamshells

The clamshell is a common exercise used in physiotherapy to build lower-body strength. The inner thigh is not the only muscle you work with clamshells. The key to feeling a good burn is to keep the movement controlled and repeat it over and over.
  1. Lie on your side with your legs stacked.
  2. Bend your knees forward to about 90 degrees.
  3. While holding your ankles together, lift your top leg up by rolling your hips.
  4. Hold your position for three seconds once you've lifted your top leg as high as you can.
  5. Bring your leg back down until your knees touch.
  6. After you've completed a set of 10–12 reps, turn over and repeat the exercise with the other leg.

Tip: Try to keep your movement small and controlled to isolate the muscles worked.

Primary muscles involved: gluteus medius, adductor

Secondary muscles involved: gluteus minimus

2. Sumo (Plié) Squat

Squats should be the staple of any leg-toning workout plan. Sumo, or plié squats, target the inner thighs by adjusting the foot positioning of a standard squat.
  1. From a standing position, move your feet out wide until you have almost reached your full range of motion.
  2. Tilt your feet outwards to maximally engage the adductors.
  3. Lower into a seated position, and aim to get your hips and knees at a 90-degree angle.
  4. Keep your chest up and the spine neutral—avoid rounding the back. The head should be kept neutral and forward-facing to avoid hyperextension of the spine.

Primary muscles involved: adductors, glutes, hip flexors, quadriceps

Secondary muscles involved: abdominals, calves, hamstrings, lower back

3. Curtsy Lunge

A curtsy lunge is another take on the lunge and is a killer for the inner thighs. You'll be moving across a transverse movement plane, which tests your balance and requires a high degree of muscular control.
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Take a big step back with your left leg, crossing it behind your right leg.
  3. Bend both your knees as you lower into the lunge. Exactly like a curtsy!
  4. Keep your chest upright, shoulders relaxed and hips square.
  5. Push off from your left leg, returning to the starting position.

Primary muscles involved: adductor, gluteus minimus, quadriceps

Secondary muscles involved: hamstrings, gluteus medius

4. Side-Lying Leg Lifts

Side-lying leg lifts (or raises) are a great choice to work multiple muscles if you're looking for an exercise with stability that doesn't put strain on the knees like a lunge or squat variation.
  1. Lie on your side with your legs extended, knees together, keeping your body as straight as you can.
  2. Use your bottom arm to brace your head and your top arm to provide support by pressing your hand on the floor.
  3. Slowly raise your top leg until you feel your muscles begin to flex, then slowly bring it back down.
  4. After you've completed a set of 10–12 reps, turn over and repeat the exercise on your other side.

Primary muscles involved: gluteus medius, gluteus minimus

Secondary muscles involved: oblique, lower back

5. Single-Leg Hamstring Bridge

This exercise can be performed with just your bodyweight or with the added resistance of some dumbbells or a barbell. Similar to a glute bridge, with an adjustment to target the inner thighs, this Pilates-style exercise needs to be part of your inner-thigh routine.
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent.
  2. Place your feet flat and hip-width apart, directly under the knees.
  3. Raise your right leg into the air, facing the ceiling.
  4. Squeeze your glutes to lift the hips from the floor to a bridge position, keeping the right leg still in the air.
  5. Slowly lower and repeat for the given number of reps, before switching legs.

Primary muscles involved: glutes, abdominals, lower back

Secondary muscles involved: hamstrings

6. Lateral Lunge

Lunges are amazing exercises for the thighs. For the inner thighs specifically, lateral lunges should be your go-to. Instead of moving in the sagittal plane (forwards or backwards), a lateral lunge is performed side-to-side.
  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Keep your right foot still, and step out wide with your left foot to your point of flexibility.
  3. Lower down, bending your left knee. Aim to create a 90-degree angle with your glutes.
  4. Push back to return to the upright, hip-width position.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Primary muscles involved: adductors, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, quadriceps

Secondary muscles involved: lower back, calves, abdominals

Remember: You Can't Spot Reduce Thigh Fat

A common misconception when it comes to training the inner thighs is spot fat reduction. You can't lose fat in one specific area like the inner thighs, regardless of how many inner-thigh-focused exercises you do. If losing thigh fat is one of your fitness goals, add compound and isolation exercises that target the inner thighs with the aim of building muscle.

When you build muscle in the thighs, you'll boost your metabolism and improve your body composition. Your body composition refers to the ratio between muscle and fat. If you have less muscle mass, your thighs may appear to have a higher fat content. When in reality, there is just a lack of muscle.

The Best Way to Train the Inner Thighs

Taking into consideration that you can't target fat loss to the inner thighs, what are your training options for strong, sculpted inner thighs?

The best workout approach is to combine compound exercises that work the adductors, quads, hamstrings and glutes with exercises that specifically isolate the adductors.

Compound exercises are multi-joint moves that work several muscle groups at the same time. They recruit a large amount of muscle fibres and require high muscular contraction to perform.

Due to this, they're highly taxing on the nervous system and can cause muscle damage that subsequently creates growth.

In short: They build muscle faster than isolation exercises.

However, by targeting one specific muscle group or joint during an exercise, isolation exercises can improve muscle-to-muscle connection and create muscle damage without requiring recovery in other areas of the body.

Even though they put less stress on your body overall, isolation exercises still play a role in building muscle by "burning out" specific muscles and building endurance.

Best Exercises for Toning Inner Thighs

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