How To Do Inner Thigh Lifts in Pilates: Proper Form, Variations, and Common Mistakes

Verywell / Ben Goldstein

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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 correctly, you will feel it tone the inner thigh and work the abdominals.

How to Do the Inner Thigh Lift in Pilates

Start by laying on your side with your body 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 upon 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 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. Release by lowering your leg and transitioning to your back. Move to the other side to repeat.

Benefits of The Inner Thigh Lift

The inner thigh muscles don't get much of a challenge during ordinary daily activity, so doing dedicated exercises can ensure that they are in balance with the rest of the lower body and core and are help to 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. You'll increase your core strength and stability, balance, and leg power. As a bonus, the placement of the top leg can provide an extra hip stretch.

Working your inner thighs (adductor muscles) is essential for helping pull your legs toward the center of your body and increases the stability of your hip and knee joints.

Other Variations of the Inner Thigh Lift

You can perform this exercise in different ways to meet your skill level and goals.

Neck-Friendly Inner Thigh Lift

Beginners and those with neck issues or tight shoulders will want to make adjustments.

  1. Lay your head down on an outstretched arm, rather than propping up the head on your hand.
  2. 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 desired.
  3. Perform the inner thigh lift exercise as described above.

If you have pain in your back or knees, you can rest your knee on a cushion.

Pulsing Inner Thigh Lift

Here is a way to add challenge to the basic inner thigh lift.

  1. Lift your ribs and prop your head upon your hand. Be sure that you keep your back and neck in good alignment.
  2. Bring the foot of your top leg up and rest it in front of your hips.
  3. Thread your top hand behind the calf, holding the outside of your ankle.
  4. Inhale, and reach the bottom leg long, lifting it off the floor. Keep it straight as you lift; do not bend the knee.
  5. 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.

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.

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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2 Sources
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  1. American Council on Exercise. Workouts for Inner Thighs: How to Strengthen Your Inner Thighs.

  2. 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