The Best Inner-Thigh Exercises That Reach Those Hard-to-Target Adductors

For strong adductors and more powerful lateral movement, add these inner-thigh exercises to your workouts.

The Best Inner-Thigh Exercises of All TimeThe Best Inner-Thigh Exercises of All Time
Courtesy of Jena Cumbo.

Whether you're lunging to the side as you try to return a tough forehand in tennis or you're lowering down into a wide squat to pick up a dog toy, your inner thighs are an essential muscle group for everyday functioning. Inner thighs, also known as hip adductors, are made up of a group of five muscles in your legs: gracilis, obturator externus, adductor brevis, adductor longus and adductor magnus. They're responsible for moving your legs toward the midline of your body.

But while the inner thighs are essential in helping you move safely and efficiently, you might not know quite how to strengthen them beyond the classic hip adductor machine at the gym. Here, learn the benefits of inner-thigh exercises for building strength and mobility; plus, watch demonstrations of the best inner-thigh exercises to work your adductors like a pro.

Benefits of Inner-Thigh Exercises

All too often, training the hip adductors is an overlooked, neglected part of a workout routine, as Analisse Ríos, C.S.C.S., a certified personal trainer and strength and conditioning specialist in Connecticut, previously told Shape. Weak inner-thigh muscles may not seem like the end of the world, but having weak adductors can lead to injuries (such as a pulled groin) from moving laterally or from having tight hip flexors. So, training your inner thighs is a key step in injury prevention and being able to move pain-free. "For healthy hips, we need our adductors and abductors (the muscles that help our legs apart and together) to be strong," says Tina Tang, NSCF-certified personal trainer and founder of Iron Strong Fitness. "The muscles in the inner thighs (the adductors) are key in lower body strength and hip injury prevention."

Plus, inner-thigh exercises improve your lower-body and pelvic floor stability and can therefore help prevent low back pain. Here's how: Your hip abductors and adductors help support your pelvis (that is, they help keep it in place), which in turn supports your lower back. Research has shown that having a weak pelvic floor is associated with low back pain. Strengthening your inner thighs, then, is the first step to establishing a strong pelvic floor foundation and preventing uncomfortable back pain.

Best Tips for Inner-Thigh Exercises

While the hip adductor machine may be your go-to for training inner thighs at the gym, don't let it be the only way you target this muscle group. The hip adductor machine is an isolation exercise, meaning it only works one muscle group and one joint at a time. A well-balanced training plan asks your muscles to move in a variety of patterns and ranges of motion — so the more options you have for inner-thigh exercises, the stronger and more balanced your muscles become.

You can do these inner-thigh exercises one to three times a week, depending on your fitness goals and abilities. Throughout each of these exercises, make sure to keep your core engaged and back flat to reduce injury risk and improve functional strength. Talk to a doctor before trying these exercises if you've had injuries to your groin or hips in the past.

The 12 Best Inner-Thigh Exercises

These inner-thigh exercises, demonstrated by Tang, will help you prevent injury, move laterally, and strengthen your leg muscles. Most of them don't require any equipment, meaning you can train this neglected muscle group anytime, anywhere.

How to add inner-thigh exercises to your workouts: These inner-thigh moves can be done all together as a stand-alone workout by doing 8 to 12 reps of each movement and repeating the circuit 2 to 3 times through. Or, choose your favorite couple of exercises and add them to your usual leg-day routine.

Ready to challenge your hip adductors and build lower-body strength? Here, watch and learn how to strengthen your inner thighs so you can bend, lunge, and move with ease.

01 of 12

Lateral Lunge

Why it works: This inner-thigh exercise stretches your groin and asks your muscles to work in the frontal plane of motion. Plus, you can use a lateral lunge to correct muscle imbalances by prioritizing your weaker side.

A. Stand with feet together, hands clasped in front of chest.

B. Take a large step out to the right and immediately sink hips back and bend right knee to lower into a lunge. Keep left leg straight but not locked, both feet pointing forward.

C. Push through right foot to straighten right leg, step right foot next to left, and return to the starting position. Repeat on opposite side.

02 of 12

Sumo Squat

Why it works: The wide stance of a sumo squat targets your inner-thigh muscles, and the sumo squat is also a compound exercise, meaning it works muscle groups and joints — in this case, that's the glutes, hamstrings, and quads.

A. Stand with feet slightly three to four inches wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out to a 45-degree angle. Clasp hands in front of chest.

B. On an inhale, sit back into hips and bend knees to lower until thighs are parallel or almost parallel with floor, keeping chest up and preventing back from rounding.

C. On an exhale, press through feet to straighten legs and return to standing.

03 of 12

Narrow Squat with Pilates Ball

Why it works: This inner-thigh workout move may be subtle, but it's powerful. By placing a Pilates ball between your thighs, your adductor muscles are forced to squeeze and engage in order to keep the ball in place.

A. Stand a forearm's distance away from a sturdy chair or countertop, holding on lightly with right hand. (Or, do the move without something to help balance to make it more challenging, as shown.) Step feet hip-width apart, toes pointed straight ahead. Place a soft, small ball (or similarly sized pillow) between inner thighs, just above knees.

B. With hand(s) clasped in front of chest, lift heels, balancing on balls of feet. Bend knees and lower about an inch, keeping back straight (imagine back is sliding down an imaginary wall). Press inner thighs into the ball, keeping shoulders stacked over hips, hips stacked over ankles, and core tight.

C. Raise hips back up, squeezing the ball with inner thighs. Lower an inch to repeat.

04 of 12

Curtsy Lunge

Why it works: In addition to targeting your glutes (especially the gluteus medius), the curtsy lunge targets your inner thighs as your lunging leg works to stabilize while stepping behind your standing leg.

A. Stand with feet together, hands clasped in front of chest.

B. Keeping weight in left foot and hips square, take a big step back with right leg, crossing it behind left leg.

C. Slowly bend knees and lower down until left thigh is parallel to the floor and both knees are bent at roughly 90-degree angles.

D. Push through left heel to rise out of the lunge and bring right foot back next to right, returning to the starting position.

05 of 12

Scissor Legs Plank

Why it works: In addition to targeting the adductor muscle group, the in-out movement pattern in this at-home inner-thigh exercise forces your arms, chest, core, and glutes to engage, says Kim Truman, a NASM-certified athletic trainer.

A. Start in a high plank position with palms on the floor, shoulders stacked over wrists, and hips in line with shoulders, and place each foot on a folded towel, paper plate, or gliding disc (as shown).

B. Keeping upper body stable, slide feet apart, opening legs as wide as possible.

C. Slowly squeeze inner thighs to slide feet back together.

06 of 12

Lateral Lunge Slides

Why it works:

A. Stand with feet together, a folded towel, paper plate, or gliding disc (as shown) under the right foot. Bend knees and hinge hips to lower into a partial squat, hands clasped in front of chest. This is the starting position.

B. With most of your weight in left leg, extend right leg to slide right foot out toward right side. Left leg remains in a static squat hold with left knee bent at a 90-degree angle and left knee stacked over left ankle.

C. Press into right foot to bend right leg and squeeze both inner thighs to drag disc back in to starting position.

07 of 12

Side-Lying Double Leg Lift

Why it works: The small range of motion in this isolated movement makes it a great option for people with very weak inner-thigh muscles or those dealing with a groin injury, says Michele Olson, Ph.D., senior clinical professor of exercise physiology at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama. Plus, this inner-thigh exercise is easy to learn, and you can do it just about anywhere.

A. Lie on right side with right arm fully extended and head resting on right biceps. Bend left arm and press left hand on the floor in front of chest to help stabilize body. Extend both legs long with feet together, left leg stacked over right leg. This is the starting position.

B. Press right leg up toward left leg to lift both legs about 6 inches off the ground. Hold for a count before releasing to return to starting position.

08 of 12

Reverse Clamshells

Why it works: This inner-thigh exercise will never get easy, which is what makes it so great. "Because of the roundness of the ball, you have to 'clamp' down in the right way, which ensures that you're really focusing on the inner thigh," says certified Pilates instructor Lisa Johnson. "I also love that you never get too strong for it — just squeeze harder and you'll keep feeling the training effects," she adds.

A. Place a small Pilates ball (or similar size pillow) between thighs. Lie on right side with knees bent and stacked on top of each other in front of body. Right arm fully is extended and head rests on right biceps. Bend left arm and press left hand on the floor in front of chest to help stabilize body. This is the starting position.

B. Inhale, then on the exhale, press left knee down with force into the ball. Hold for 3 counts, then inhale to release.

09 of 12

Inner-Thigh Circles

Why it works: This is the best inner-thigh exercise for tons of people because it's a safe and effective way to build strength during pregnancy, says Elizabeth Ordway, a certified Pilates instructor and founder of Movement Studio in Los Angeles. "Imagine you are drawing circles on the back wall, lengthening the inner thigh, and keep abs pulled in tight and torso stable," she suggests.

A. Lie on right side with right arm fully extended and head resting on right biceps. Bend left arm and press left hand on the floor in front of chest to help stabilize body. Bend left leg and place left foot firmly on the mat in front of right leg. This is the starting position.

B. Point right foot and lift right leg up 3 to 6 inches off the ground.

C. Starting in a clockwise direction, trace a circle with right leg. Repeat for a set number of reps or duration, then switch to trace a circle in a counterclockwise direction.

10 of 12

Reverse Lunge to Single-Leg Deadlift

Why it works: Ever noticed that you're better at balancing on one leg versus the other? This muscle imbalance is super common, and targeting your inner thigh muscles with this lunge-to-deadlift combo will help you improve your stability on your weaker side.

A. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and arms by sides. This is the starting position.

B. Engage core and pull shoulder blades down and back. Shift weight into right leg and bend right knee slightly.

C. Send hips back to lower chest toward the floor in front of legs while simultaneously lifting left leg off the floor and extending it behind body, reaching left arm long for balance. Continue lowering until hips are fully pushed back and back is as close to parallel to the ground as possible.

D. Keeping chest up, push through right heel and lower left foot back to the floor in a reverse lunge. Both knees should be bent at 90-degree angles and left knee hovers an inch or two above the ground.

E. Return to starting position, squeezing glutes at the top.

11 of 12

Bodyweight Lunges

Why it works: "Any single-leg exercise performed through a full range of motion (thighs below parallel) while standing is great for your inner thighs, but lunges are my personal favorite," says Amanda Russell, a certified personal trainer. Plus, you get the bonus of working your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps, calves, and core.

A. Stand with feet hip-width apart and arms by sides. This is the starting position.

B. Keeping chest lifted and back straight, take a large step forward (about 3 feet) with right foot and lower into a lunge until front thigh is parallel to floor and both knees are bent at 90-degree angles. Left knee hovers an inch or two above the ground.

C. Push off right foot to return to starting position.

12 of 12

Inner-Thigh Inside Piqués

Why it works: This ballet-inspired inner-thigh exercise strengthens and tones your inner thighs while also increasing extension and flexion in your opposite hip, and comes highly recommended by ACE-certified trainer Teri Jory, Ph.D. This makes it easier for your hips and knees to flex, rotate, and elongate as they're designed to do without pain or injury.

A. Stand with feet parallel and shoulder-width apart, with hands on hips or holding onto a chair or wall for support if needed. This is the starting position.

B. Extend right leg and cross it over to left side of body, squeezing inner thighs and rotating heel upward.

C. Raise right foot up as high as possible and then quickly touch right toes to the ground (try only tapping pinky toe on the floor while maintaining internal rotation if possible).

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles