Toning the upper legs is an ongoing project for a lot of people. Personal trainer Matt Siaperas says that every week someone approaches him about her leg workout, lamenting that she never sees any progress. The problem usually lies in the client not performing the moves properly and not knowing which exercises work which muscles. If you're doing sideways leg lifts for your inner thighs, for example, you probably won't see much improvement.
What Do Sideways Leg Lifts Target?
When performing the stand up sideways leg lift, also known as standing hip abduction, you press your leg sideways out and up to about hip level. There are machines, including cable machines, that add resistance to work the muscle, but when doing a sideways leg lift, you're working the outer part of your thigh and hip, not the inner part. This isn't a bad move for you to include in your leg routine, but it doesn't target your inner thigh.
Targeting the Inner Thigh
If you want to work on the inner thigh muscle, you should include standing hip adduction in your leg workout routine. It works in the opposite direction as an abduction, forcing the muscles on the inside of your upper leg to engage. Use a cable or other machine to add the element of resistance when you perform an adduction. Draw your leg across the front of your body, working against the resistance and then slowly draw it back, bringing it out and up to the side. The movement is almost identical to the sideways leg lift, but the placement of the resistance is what determines which part of the upper leg is being worked.
Quadriceps and Hamstring Exercises
For your upper leg to have overall strength and to look balanced, you should work all parts of the upper leg, not just the inner and outer thigh. This includes working on the quadriceps (front of the thigh) and the hamstrings (back of the thigh). There are many exercises that engage the front of your legs, but lunges, squats and leg extensions are a few basic exercises that are effective for quads. To target hamstrings, personal trainer Matt Siaperas recommends leg curls, deadlifts and good-mornings to his clients.
Hitting the Glutes
As the muscle that tops off your legs, shaping and toning your gluteus maximus is a natural extension of working on your thighs. Shapefit reports that because of the fat cells that women carry, the need to choose the right exercises to shape the glutes is vital. The good news is that if you've already added some quad and hamstring exercises to your workout, they will work on your glutes as a bonus. Squats, lunges and hamstring curls all do double-duty by including the glutes in the muscles they target. Additional exercises that will work on your posterior are the one-legged cable kickback and the glute kickback, also called the tush push.
Elle Di Jensen has been a writer and editor since 1990. She began working in the fitness industry in 1987, and her experience includes editing and publishing a workout manual. She has an extended family of pets, including special needs animals. Jensen attended Idaho and Boise State Universities. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications.