Toning the Inner Thighs With Exercise

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Inner thigh exercises are among the most sought-after kinds of exercise instructions. But before I point you toward specific inner thigh exercises, I want to make a few points about inner thigh work that I hope will help direct your efforts toward a more effective workout.

Inner Thighs and Weight Loss

First, let's get a harsh truth out of the way: There Is No Such Thing As Spot Reduction. You can't lose weight in one particular spot just by exercising that spot. Weight loss happens all over the body. On the upside, if you need to lose weight, and you do lose it, revealing a toned inner thigh is going to feel extra good.

If your goal is to tone the inner thigh, it important to know that there is a whole set of interconnected muscles that make up the inner thigh. Each muscle works a little differently, and they all work in concert with other muscles of the leg. For those reasons, you have to take a few different approaches to make sure you get to the various muscles of the inner thigh. 

More to the Inner Thigh Than Meets the Eye

Some of the muscles we want to tone when we speak of the inner thigh are inside of the leg, but some are also little more toward the front, and some wrap around the thigh from back to front. And, the muscles involved with the inner thigh have different actions. Some inner thigh muscles bring the leg in toward the body, some help bend or straighten the leg, and some rotate the leg or flex the foot. So as you may have guessed, you have to work the leg at different angles, and with different kinds of motion to get to the inner thigh muscles. Of course, we always have to work the legs in a balanced way — that is ultimately what is going to improve leg motion, appearance, and protect the knee joint.

The Adductors and Beyond

Several of the inner thigh muscles people want to tone for appearance's sake, the gracillus, and the adductor magnus, for example, are called adductors. That means they bring the leg in toward the midline of the body — it's easy to remember, they add the leg. Abductors, found more on the outside line of the leg, are muscles that take the leg away from the midline of the body — they abduct it, like a kidnapper. For many us, our abductors are stronger than our adductors, so our inner thighs are weak and inner leg reflects that with an un-toned look.

Many inner thigh exercises focus on the adductors, these are exercises that squeeze the legs toward each other. Seated legs is an example. But not every muscle that we want to tone to improve the functionality and appearance of the inner thigh is an adductor. For example, the quadriceps is a set of powerful muscles that extend the leg (open the knee joint) and muscles of the quadriceps, like the vastus medialus, are major players in inner thigh tone as well.

Poor leg alignment (and therefore unbalanced muscle use) is frequently to blame for lack of muscle tone in the leg. That's why we are such sticklers in Pilates for correct leg alignment. We want balanced muscular development.

Know Parallel Legs

You can do much to further your cause of toning the inner thighs by knowing what parallel legs means and training yourself to walk, run, sit and stand with an emphasis on the legs in parallel position with the weight falling through the center of the foot. Lots of us send our line of energy down the outside of the leg instead of the middle. Just this one correction will go a long way toward helping you create and maintain a well-balanced leg — including the inner thigh.

But I hear you: My inner thighs need more work than that. They need strengthening and you need to exercise to fix it.

Hug the Midline

When you do exercises that ask you to have your legs together, really squeeze them together. Make those inner thighs work. Don't be lazy and just have them together at the top and loose as they go down. Make sure your legs are lined up straight and hold them together from the top to the ankle. And don't let your foot alignment be sloppy. It will make a difference. The foot should be in line with the knee.

If you work the midline, many exercises become inner thigh exercises. A few examples from Pilates would be: double leg lowersdouble leg stretch, and footwork on the mat. Now that you are thinking this way, you will see what I mean. Even the infamous Pilates ab buster, the hundred, is an inner thigh exercise!

Add Resistance and Eccentric Contractions

Since you work the adductor inner thigh muscles as you use them to bring the leg in toward the midline of the body, adding resistance to that process challenges the muscles more. Squeezing a Pilates ring or a soccer size ball set just above the knees or above the ankles are techniques you can use to add resistance as the leg moves in, challenging the inner thigh muscles more.

The squeeze is only half the exercise. Take advantage of the release and get a lot more inner thigh work out of an exercise. If you resist as you release, you will be making the inner thigh muscles work in an eccentric contraction. Eccentric contractions are muscle-lengthening contractions that some say work the muscle harder than a regular concentric contraction.

Knowing how to work the eccentric contraction is one of the great secrets of Pilates, and what accounts for the long, lean appearance of muscles trained in Pilates. Even if you don't do Pilates, remember to control the release of your inner thigh exercises and you will get much more benefit. That goes for resisting the release of a leg extension too (working those extensor muscles we talked about). In Pilates, reformer legwork gives us a lot of opportunity for that, but if you go to the gym, leg extensions with weights is another place you can experiment with resisting the release.

Try a Different Angle

In Pilates, we do plenty of bending and stretching with the legs in various positions like parallel, pulled together, and turned out slightly at the hip in Pilates stance. Turning the leg out brings in the deep six hip muscles which are opposed by the inner thigh muscles, making them work. But there is another position you might want to experiment with in some exercises, and that is with the working leg turned in a little bit. If you rotate the leg inward from the hip socket, only slightly, you might feel a different muscular engagement than when you have the legs in the other positions. Experiment with the internal rotation in exercises like inner thigh liftstanding leg press with ring and rainbow.

Inner thigh lift is particularly interesting because the external rotation and bend of the top leg is also an inner thigh opportunity — something most people don't realize. Not only that, but you can work the bottom leg in parallel, and in the external or internal rotation. You might also try flexing the bottom foot. Don't use inner our outer rotations exclusively, but they might help you find inner thigh challenge you can't get to otherwise.

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