If you want to shape your legs, part of the solution is to pack on some muscle mass in your adductor and hamstrings regions. The adductors are located in your inner thigh region, while the hamstrings are located at the back of your thighs. These large muscle groups allow you to move your legs inward and toward the rear, respectively. Your hamstrings also work to bend your knees. The best way you can develop these muscles is by directly working them with specific leg and hip exercises.
Adductor Basic Anatomy
To get the most out of your training, you must know what specific muscles you are working with certain exercises, and the location of these muscles. The hip adductor group comprises five muscles: adductor longus, adductor brevis, adductor magnus, pectineus and gracilis. These muscles extend from your hipbone complex down to your inner thigh or knee region. When you move your legs toward the center of your body, these are the main three muscles that are contracting.
To best target your adductor muscles, you need access to either a hip adductor machine or a cable pulley machine. If you have access to the former, execution of the exercise is pretty straightforward: You sit on the machine with your legs up against the thigh pads and then move your thighs inward. If you have access to the cable pulley, you can do this inward-moving leg motion while standing up. You need to wear an ankle cuff attached to the cable pulley to do this motion.
The hamstrings are made up of four muscles: biceps femoris short and long heads, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. All three of these muscles cross your knee joint, allowing you to bend your knee. The latter three muscles also cross your hip joint, so they contract when you extend your hip joint. Based on this basic anatomical info, you can see that you can exercise your hamstrings by doing both knee and hip exercises.
The best exercises you can do to work all four of your hamstrings muscles are those than involve knee flexion, as all four muscles cross the knee joint. The best knee-flexing exercises are the standing, seated and lying leg curl. You need access to resistance machines or resistance bands to do each of these three exercises. In addition to leg curls, you should do hip-extending exercises to further target the largest of the hamstrings muscles, which exclude the biceps femoris short head. The best of these types of exercises are the standing straight-leg barbell deadlift, standing straight-leg dumbbell deadlift, and hyperextension machine.
Richard Choueiri is a fitness and nutrition expert and the author of "The Human Statue Workout." He began writing professionally in 2007 and his work has been featured in Bodybuilding.com and "Physique Magazine." Choueiri studied exercise science and nutritional science at Rutgers University. He holds an American College of Sports Medicine CPT, and a National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association CMMACC.