How To Do Inner Thigh Lifts in Pilates

Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Pilates Inner Thigh Lifts

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

Pilates inner thigh lift
Dave and Les Jacobs/Blend Images/Getty Images

Also Known As: Inner thigh raises

Targets: Adductor (inner thigh) muscles

Equipment Needed: Mat

Level: Intermediate

The inner thigh lift is one of the most targeted inner thigh exercises in the Pilates mat work program. It is an adductor exercise, working the inner thigh muscles of the groin area that pull the thigh towards the midline of the body. This is the opposite motion of the side leg raise, which works the abductors. If you set up for this exercise properly, you will feel it tone the inner thigh and work the abdominals as well.


The inner thigh muscles don't get much of a challenge during normal daily activity, so doing dedicated exercises for them can ensure that they are in balance with the rest of the lower body and core, and are helping stabilize the knee and hip joints. The inner thigh lift also works the abdominals as you set up a solid core to perform the movement. The placement of the top leg can provide an extra hip stretch.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Start on your side in one long line. Move your legs a few inches ahead of you so that you are in a banana shape.

  1. Lift your ribs and prop your head up on your hand. Be sure that you keep your back and neck in good alignment.
  2. Bring the foot of your top leg up to rest in front of your hips.
  3. Thread your top hand behind the calf and grasp the outside of your ankle.
  4. Inhale, and reach the bottom leg long, lifting it up off the floor. Keep it straight as you lift; do not bend the knee.
  5. Exhale and maintain that sense of length as you lower the leg back down.
  6. Repeat for a total of five to eight sets on each leg.

Common Mistakes

To get the most out of your inner thigh lift, be sure you are aligned correctly.

Not Working from Your Core

Engage your core and use it to help you keep your body upright and stable while your adductors work to lift your outstretched leg.

Rolling Forward or Back

It's tempting to allow your top hip to roll forward toward your bent knee or back behind you. Aim to keep your hips stacked, as if your back is evenly pressed against a wall.

Modifications and Variations

You can adjust this exercise to make it work better for you.

Need a Modification?

Beginners and those with neck issues or tight shoulders will want to lay their heads down on an outstretched arm, rather than propping up the head with the neck.

You can also rest the foot from your top leg in front of your thigh, rather than your hip, and place your top hand flat on the floor in front of your chest for more stability. If you have pain in your back or knees, you can rest your knee on a cushion.

Up for a Challenge?

  • Bring the leg up and hold for a few beats, then slowly lower the leg.
  • Advanced practitioners can try this exercise with the top hand behind the head and with the elbow lifted toward the ceiling.

Safety and Precautions

Modify as above if you find that this move strains your neck or shoulders. If you have back issues, consult with a doctor or physical therapist to make sure this exercise is safe for you. It is doable throughout pregnancy since it does not require you to lay on your back or stomach.

Try It Out

Incorporate this move and similar ones into one of these popular workouts:

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  1. Evenson KR, Barakat R, Brown WJ, et al. Guidelines for Physical Activity during Pregnancy: Comparisons From Around the WorldAm J Lifestyle Med. 2014;8(2):102–121. doi:10.1177/1559827613498204