10 Effective Inner-Thigh Exercises for Strong, Sculpted Legs

person doing lunges in stadium

MARCO GOVEL / Stocksy

Toning the inner thighs helps keep your legs and hips balanced and strong, but there’s also something so satisfying about feeling like a confident rock star in your favorite jeans. There are several fitness machines and products that are marketed as miracle inner-thigh toners, but most of them seem too gimmicky to be legitimate. So, to learn which inner-thigh exercises are actually effective, we reached out to two fitness pros for their top recommendations. They helped us curate a great inner-thigh workout that can be done at home—no gym required.

The best part? You don’t need any fancy equipment to get started. A ball or Pilates ring is suggested for some of these moves, however a towel or small pillow works just as well. For the sliding exercises, a gliding disc or slider placed under your foot helps provide an unstable surface to really work your legs, however a paper plate is just as effective. Make sure you warm up with a 10-15 minute walk or a run before starting these exercises—and then get ready to burn out those legs.

Keep reading for 10 expert-approved inner-thigh exercises to help you sculpt and tone your legs in no time.

Meet the Expert

Safety and Precautions

In general, our experts say that these inner-thigh-sculpting moves should be safe for everyone. However, if you have any lower-body or back injuries, you should consult your doctor, physical therapist, or a certified personal trainer before attempting the exercises. And, across the board, if you experience any pain or discomfort during a move, stop immediately.

Be sure to progress the amount of targeted exercise you do gradually to prevent excessive soreness and injury. For example, try just two or three exercises the first day, then give yourself a day or two off. Add one additional exercise to your routine at a time, taking rest days in between as needed. Balance out the muscular work with stretching, foam rolling, or other mobility exercises.

To prevent lower-back strain, focus on consciously engaging your glutes and core during each movement, and use proper posture and form. Avoid rounding your back. Lastly, when using weights, always wear proper footwear, like supportive training shoes.

Myths

Our experts say the most common misconception about inner-thigh exercises is that the only reason to do them is if you’re driven by a desire to change your appearance. “There are many benefits from working your inner-thigh muscles. Naturally, aesthetics are high on the list—making your legs look stronger and slimmer,” says Beckwith. “However, working the inner-thigh muscles also helps stabilize your hips and knees and keeps the kinetic chain strong.”

Also, keep in mind that doing a bunch of inner-thigh moves won’t necessarily make your legs slimmer. “Getting a thigh gap is all down to genetics and the shape of your hips. It has nothing to do with excess fat or being overweight,” notes Beckwith. “Focus on working all your muscles in your legs—work your legs remembering that muscles are 3D, not 2D—and don’t focus on the [elusive] illusion of a thigh gap. Focus on strength and stability and wrapping your joints in muscles to protect them.”

Robinson adds that, rather than focusing on how you look, you should focus on the body-empowering way you feel when you get stronger. According to Robinson, toning up our inner thighs “makes a difference in the way we all feel about our bodies, and everyone wants to feel strong and toned in all the right places.” So, as you approach this workout, focus more on how good you feel, rather than how you look.

Stability Ball Squeezes

This move not only strengthens your inner thigh muscles, it also works your core muscles. The lower your legs, the more it challenges your abdominals.

  • Lie on your back with your legs extended in front of you, and place the stability ball in between your calves.
  • When the ball is in place, Robinson says to squeeze the ball as hard and as fast as possible for 30 seconds.
  • Repeat three times.

Sliders

This exercise works your entire lower body, however the lateral lunge move really targets those inner thighs.

  • Place a workout slider or small hand towel underneath one of your shoes on a smooth surface.
  • Squat down and push your leg with the slider underneath it out to the side, away from your body. Robinson says that to get the best results, “get as low and as wide with the move as possible.”
  • Work up to three sets of 10 reps on each side.

Goblet Squats

This squat variation works your legs, core, glutes, and lower back.

  • Robinson says to “place your legs wide apart, and turn your toes out toward the corners of the room.”
  • Then place a heavy weight, if able, in both hands. Robinson recommends 12 to 25 pounds, depending on your fitness level.
  • Hold the weight between your legs, and squat down and up.
  • Complete 15-20 reps.

If you are a beginner, allow the weight to hit the floor as you squat down. If you are more advanced, hold the weight closer to your chest, sit into your hips, and tuck your tailbone forward.

Side Lunges

This move will strengthen your inner thighs, core, hip and knee stabilizers, and glutes, all while improving your balance.

  • Stand tall, with your core engaged.
  • Step one leg out to the side, bending that knee roughly 90 degrees, and lean your body weight into that leg. “Step out only as far as is comfortable. Keep your toes forward, core engaged, and look forward,” advises Beckwith.
  • Use your opposite inner thigh and core to pull your body back to an upright position, and step that leg back in.
  • Complete 20 reps per side.    

Fire Hydrants

You’ll work your inner thighs, abs, obliques, hip stabilizers, pelvic floor, and glutes with this move.

  • Get on all fours, ensuring your core is engaged, belly button is pulled in, and back is flat like a tabletop.
  • Keeping your knees bent and hips stable, slowly lift one leg up and out to the side. 
  • Return to the starting position with control. 
  • Complete 20 reps per side.

Inner-Thigh Lifts

Beckwith says this exercise “strengthens the inner thighs and pelvic floor, and stabilizes your back muscles and core.”

  • Lie on one side with your head resting on your arm, your hips stacked, and your top leg bent in front of your bottom leg, with the foot of the top leg flat on the floor.
  • Engage your core to slowly lift your bottom (straight) leg as high as you can.
  • Slowly lower the leg back down until it nearly touches the floor, but doesn’t, and then lift it back up.
  • Complete 20 reps per leg.

As you get stronger, you can put an ankle weight on the working leg for additional resistance.

Stability Ball Leg Drops

Beckwith likes this move because it works your inner thighs, hip flexors, quads, and core simultaneously.

  • Lie on your back, with your legs fully extended and a stability ball between your ankles.
  • While continually squeezing the ball, lift your straight legs all the way up until they are perpendicular to the ground.
  • Engage your core as you slowly lower your legs down until the ball just barely touches the ground, and then lift and repeat. Be sure your lower back remains flat on the floor the whole time.
  • Complete 20 slow, controlled reps.                   

Pilates Ring Squeezes

The Pilates ring is a great tool to help target and strengthen the inner thighs. You can also use a stability ball or a pillow if you don't have a ring.

  • Sit in a chair with a Pilates ring between your thighs, just above your knees. “Make sure you are sitting tall, with your chest proud and core engaged,” notes Beckwith.
  • Squeeze and hold for 30 seconds, and then relax.

Pilates Torpedoes

“This move helps with balance and core stability and works the inner thighs,” explains Beckwith.

  • Lie on your side, with your hips and legs straight and stacked, core engaged, and body still.
  • Lift both extended legs off the ground. Hold the top leg up while you drop the lower leg slowly to the floor and lift it back up to meet the top leg.
  • Complete 15 reps, and then switch sides.

Bridge With Pilates Ball

In addition to strengthening your inner thighs, this exercise helps strengthen your core and pelvic floor, and helps stabilize the hips.

  • Lie on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Place an inflatable ball that’s similar in size to a volleyball between your knees.
  • Once in proper position, Robinson says to “raise and squeeze your butt up toward the ceiling” while simultaneously squeezing the ball between your knees “as hard as possible.”
  • Work up to doing three sets of 20 reps.

To make this exercise even more challenging, Robinson says you “can also add pulses and a hold” after your last rep in each set.

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