Working out on an adductor machine as you flap your legs in and out like a seal clapping its flippers won't tone your inner thighs -- even if you feel them burning. A better way to tone and strengthen your inner thighs is by doing exercises that train your entire lower body at once. With free weights, you can get a high-calorie-burning workout in less than 30 minutes.
Some muscles can produce more force than others, and some work better as brakes to help you slow your motion and force. Your inner thighs aren't built to be big, heavy movers, but they do very well at slowing the extension and rotation of your hips, such as when you slow down during a sprint. When you do lower-body exercises such as squats, stair running or lunges, your inner thighs keep your hips and knees in alignment with your lower leg and spine while controlling how quickly you slow down. This kind of training can even help you reduce your risk of having injuries to your knees, groin and hips.
Although squats emphasize your butt and thighs, your inner thighs are also working just as hard to stabilize your hips and knees. Stand with your feet about shoulder-distance apart and hold a 10- to 15-pound dumbbell in each hand above your shoulders. Keep your elbows close to your ribs. Inhale and squat as low as you can while keeping your spine upright. Bring your buttocks below your knee level, but do not extend your knees past your toes. Exhale as you stand up without flexing your spine. Do two to three sets of eight to 12 reps.
Overhead Back Lunges
Back lunges work the same muscles as the squat, but they also challenge your balance and increase the coordination between your lower and upper body. Stand with your feet together and hold a 6- to 8-pound medicine ball in front of your chest with your hands extended. Step back about 2 feet with your right leg. Inhale as you lunge straight down and raise the ball overhead. You should feel your hip flexors and inner thighs stretch as you lunge. Exhale as you stand up and step forward to the standing position, bringing the ball back to the starting position. Do two to three sets of eight to 10 reps per leg.
If you inner thighs aren't stable, you won't be able to climb onto a step or safely lower your body to the floor. Stack a set of aerobic steps between 2 and 3 feet high. Hold a 5- to 10-pound dumbbell in each hand, keep your hands by your sides and exhale as you step onto the step with your right foot. Raise your left knee to your ribs as you step up, and hold this position for one second. Inhale as you carefully bring your left foot down to the floor and bring your feet together. Do two to three sets of eight to 12 reps per leg.
If you are new to working out, do these exercises without weights before adding any weight. Work with a qualified fitness professional to get you started so that the workout program fits your goals and fitness level. Do not exercise if you have pain until you have checked with your primary health care provider.
- Michael Terborg, CSCS; M-Power Movement, LLC; Boulder, CO
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.