Our thighs are often one of the most stubborn areas to slim down and tone up. While the outer-thigh muscles tend to get worked more often from common exercises like walking or running, the inner-thigh muscles are often ignored. Increasing muscle tissue not only burns calories but also firms up that area of the body. When I danced, especially in ballet class, my inner thighs were constantly being used and worked. Strong inner thighs are a necessity for a good turnout and quick leg movements. As I became less active in the dance world, I wanted to maintain the strength and physique I had while dancing. It was through Pilates exercises that I was able to further improve my thigh strength without creating bulk. That’s because Pilates, much like ballet, was designed to create long lean muscles. Pilates is also great because you don’t need any equipment or a gym to do the exercises. Here are four Pilates exercises guaranteed to strengthen and slim your thighs!
Inner Thigh Circles
Lying on your side, prop your upper body up onto your elbow. Engage your lats and your obliques to make sure you don’t sink down into your shoulder blade. Bend the top leg and place your foot flat on the ground with the knee turned out facing the ceiling. The bottom leg will be straight and parallel with the foot flexed. Keep sending energy out of the straight leg through the heel as you use your inner thigh to lift that leg up as high as possible and then do 10 small circles clockwise and 10 counterclockwise. Try your best to keep the top hip from falling back in order to get the bottom leg up. To modify this exercise, you may lay your arm down and prop your head up with your hand so you aren’t on as high of an incline.
Inner Thigh Pulses in Single Leg Bridge
Lying on the ground with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor, lift your hips into the air as high as possible. Lift with your glutes and hamstrings, not by arching your back. You want to maintain tone in the front of your abdominals rather than completely disengaging them in order to arch up. You may not get as high in the beginning as you will later. Make sure your knees are directly over your heels and straighten one leg without allowing your hips to shift. The pelvis remains square and your knees should be glued together. In this position, pulse your inner thighs together 20-30 times before switching legs. While you will be simultaneously strengthening your glutes and hamstrings, be careful not to mistake inner thigh pulsing for butt pulsing! You want your glutes and hips to remain stable in space, not bouncing up and down. Focus on the small contractions of your inner thighs. If at first this is too difficult, you can do it with both feet down on the ground and build up to one leg off the ground.
This exercise really tightens up the back of the legs and butt along with the inner thighs. Lie face down making sure your legs are turned out with the heels together and toes apart. Rest your forehead on your hands and pull the navel in toward your spine to protect your lower back. Keep the legs straight and squeeze your glutes so that your legs are lifted off the ground as much as possible without crunching your lower back. Vigorously beat your heels together using your inner thigh muscles, not just your feet. Work up to a full minute.
Plié Squat Pulses
This isn’t a traditional Pilates exercise, but I love doing this in my classes because it uses both Pilates and ballet techniques to work the thighs. Squat with your legs turned out and wide enough so your knees don’t go beyond your toes. Keep your back straight and your tailbone pointing down towards the ground by pulling your navel to your spine. Think of pulling your knees back by squeezing your butt. This turned out position forces you to work the inner thighs more. Get as low as possible without compromising your trunk position and do small pulses up and down for a full minute. Rather than bouncing from the knees, think of pulsing the tailbone down towards the ground. If you want more of a challenge, lift both heels so you’re holding a calf raise while you pulse.
Remember to breathe throughout each exercise and stretch at the end. While the focus may be on the thighs, you will feel your entire body engaging in these moves when done correctly. As Joseph Pilates always said, Go for quality over quantity!
Have you tried these killer thigh moves? Let us know in the comments below!
Also by Crystal: How I Learned to Breather after I Stopped Dancing
Related: 6 Dancer Stretches for Sore Hips and Thighs
5 Post-Run Stretches for Leaner Legs
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Photos: Crystal Chin