It’s easy to get caught up in working the quads and hamstrings, the muscles in the front and back of the thighs, that you ignore the muscles that make up the inner thighs. Why should you show your inner thighs some love? Strengthening these muscles helps you avoid injury. If you’ve ever strained an inner thigh muscle, you know how painful it can be! You quickly discover that it’s difficult to run or even walk. Strengthening these muscles also helps to stabilize the knee joint and lower the risk of knee injury. Plus, you need strong inner thighs for lateral movements and for jumping and plyometric moves.
Unfortunately, there are some myths about working the inner thigh muscles. One is that working these muscles will help vanquish that jiggly fat that some women carry on their inner thighs. Strength training doesn’t spot remove fat. To get inner thigh fat off, you have to reduce your overall body fat percentage through diet and calorie-burning exercise.
One disturbing trend of recent years is trying to attain a thigh gap, a gap between the thighs. Fortunately, that trend seems to be dying as women recognize that it’s better to be strong and powerful than super skinny with a thigh gap. But your inner thighs need to be strong regardless. So, make sure your lower body workout is balanced and that your workouts target the inner thigh muscles too. If you’re trying to lose fat and strengthen your inner thighs, compound exercises are best as they burn more calories.
When you think of compound exercises that work the lower body, squats probably come to mind – but which squat variation targets the muscles in the inner thighs best?
The Muscles That Make Up the Inner Thighs
The inner thigh muscles are known as adductors. It’s an appropriate description as that’s exactly what they do – they adduct or move the thigh toward the midline. When you extend your leg out to the side and bring it back to the center, the movement back toward the center is adduction. The adductors include four muscles: the adductor magnus, the pectineus, the gracilis, the adductor longus, and the adductor brevis and are sometimes referred to as the groin muscles. You use these muscles when you run and even when you sit.
Runners often have weak adductors relative to their quads, as running works the quads more than the adductors and hamstrings. So, runners can benefit from a little remedial strengthening!
Squats Variations that Target the Inner Thighs
Which squat variation hits the inner thigh muscles hardest? To target your adductor muscles, sumo squats are a good choice as they use a wide stance and a wide stance most effectively works the adductor muscles. You’re probably already familiar with the sumo squat and may even include it in your routine already. If not, here’s how to do one:
· Stand with your feet separated by a bit more than shoulder width. Your toes should be turned outward to around 45 degrees.
· Hold your hands in front of your chest. (Use only your own body weight until you master the form)
· Lower into the squat while keeping your back neutral and your abs tight.
· Descend until just below parallel and pause briefly at the bottom.
· Placing your weight in your heels, return slowly to the starting position.
Once you’ve mastered the movement, hold a dumbbell at one end and let the other end dangle between your legs as you descend into the squat for more resistance. You can also use a kettlebell in place of a dumbbell. Remember, form is more important than weight. The adductor muscles have a relatively high proportion of slow-twitch muscle fibers, so you don’t have to use a heavy resistance to get benefits. Exercises that use lighter weights and higher reps best target the slow-twitch muscle fibers.
How to Make the Move More Dynamic
Would you like to burn more calories and get your heart rate up when you squat and still target your inner thighs? Try pop squats! To do this squat variation, place your feet just wider than hip width. Sit back into your hips and descend into the squat position. Immediately jump into the air before landing in the starting position. Repeat. This is one of the most effective ways to burn more calories when you squat. Try alternating sumo squats with pop squats during a workout to get your heart rate up. Remember, the lower you go, the more you’ll work your adductor muscles.
Another Squat Variation That Targets the Inner Thighs
Here’s a squat variation that hits the muscles in your inner thighs. It’s one that you might not be familiar with. It’s called the Cossack squat. With this variation, you really don’t need weights, especially when you first start out. Bonus: This is also a good variation for targeting your glutes. Here’s how to do it:
· Stand with your feet wider than shoulder length apart.
· Squat deeply as you lean to the left and extend your right leg out to the side. Your right leg should be straight and your right toes should point up to the ceiling. Extend your arms out in front of you to help maintain balance. With this squat, you descend to one side and keep the other leg straight.
· Do 8 to 10 reps.
· Now, do the movement to the other side so that you squat to the right and keep your left leg straight.
· Do 3 sets on each side.
As a bonus, this squat variation helps improve mobility in the ankles, knees, and hips. Plus, it’s good to do a variety of squat exercises for more balanced lower body development.
The Bottom Line
There are lots of reasons to include sumo squats in your strength-training routine. As you can see, they place more emphasis on the inner thigh muscles than other squat variations. EMG studies show that wider stance squats, like the sumo squat, also activate the glute muscles more than narrow or medium stance squats. But, also give the Cossack squat a try. Be prepared to have sore inner thighs!
Strength and Conditioning Research. “How Does Stance Width Affect Muscle Activity in Squats?”
Spotebi.com. “Cossack Squat”
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