If I asked you to “name the parts of your legs,” what would you list? Quads? Hamstrings? Calves? Shins? Feet? Ankles? Did I miss anything?
What about your inner thighs? When was the last time you put a little focus on working the muscles of your upper, inner thighs? For healthy movement habits a body in balance needs the benefit of strong, fit, and flexible inner thigh muscles. How much love and attention are you giving your whole leg? (Inner thighs included.)
Every muscle in our body needs to have an adequate amount of both strength and flexibility to function well. When we think about targeting the thighs most of the attention gets placed on the Quads (along the front of the thigh), and the Hamstrings (along the back of the thigh) since these two muscles groups are needed to bend and straighten the knee and help us stand up, sit down, climb stairs, etc…
And from there it’s usually, “I want to tone my hips.” Or “I want a better looking, tighter behind.” So we start focusing on exercises to work the Glutes and outer thighs, and sometimes forget completely about the value of the all-important, sexy upper inner thighs!
When I work with new clients I am surprised how little muscle activity is happening with these muscles! For many people the inner thigh muscles are both weak and tight (yes, it’s possible) which can result in restricted hip mobility, tight hamstrings, poor leg alignment and additional stress (wear-and-tear, pressure, and pain) at the knee joints. And if the knees don’t hurt, there’s a really good chance that the lower back does!
Above and/or below weak, tight, inner thighs there is increased risk for pain or injury. Think you’ve been training your inner thighs… I find that many clients, rather than engaging the full length of the muscle initiating from where the leg meets the body, the tendency is to squeeze the legs together starting at the knees which only places more stress on the already stressed-out knee joints.
Whether you do Pilates, Yoga, walk, run, play sports, lift weights or just want to stay safe and healthy for your daily life activities, here are five reasons to find, feel, and focus on stretching and strengthening the inner thigh muscles (Adductor Muscles).
1. IMPROVE BALANCE – The inner thighs are an important part of the leg to help maintain balance when standing and walking. As we age, there is a tendency to stand and walk with a wider stride thinking that this is helping our balance. But this “wider” stance only further weakens the inner thighs, and makes us less stable. Maintaining strong inner things so it’s easy to stand and walk with your legs closer together will help keep you more on-center to enjoy better balance.
2. HEALTHY HIP MECHANICS – The inner thighs stabilize the leg as it swings forward and backwards for a healthy stride to walk and run. They also are critical for support and movement for lateral (side-to-side) movement. Sports like basketball, tennis, racquetball and horseback riding would be impossible without strong inner thighs.
3. PAIN-FREE KNEES – The balance of support between the inner thighs and outer hip muscles is what stabilizes the leg for healthy, pain-free movement at the knee. The knee joint can only flex and extend, but the leg can move in all directions from the hip. Without adequate support on the inside and outside of the thigh the risk of a medial or lateral knee injury (pain) may increase.
4. BETTER ANKLE MOBILITY – Do you have stiff ankles, tight calves, heel pain… a contributing factor can be what’s happening at the other end of the leg. Your inner thighs are every bit as important as what is happening at your feet. The inner thigh muscles contribute to how you stand – rolling in or out at the ankle. With the right amount of both support and flexibility at the hip-end of the leg with the inner thighs, you can help improve posture, reduce foot pain and keep your ankles healthy with better mobility to avoid sprains & strains, Achilles tendonitis and other debilitating foot, knee and hip problems.
5. ENJOY MORE CORE SUPPORT – Of course your inner thighs aren’t a part of your core… BUT, what they do, or don’t do, can dramatically affect how well you are able to maintain good posture and enjoy healthy movement habits. For a strong well-lifted core, good inner thigh support along with proper pelvic floor function is an important foundation for hip placement and a healthy, well-aligned spine.
Just knowing that your inner thighs should be working won’t make them turn on and start working correctly… It will take intentional focus to improve your mind-body connection, deliberate muscle engagement, and purposeful fine-tuning of your movements habits during exercise and daily life activities to activate the inner thighs for proper support.
Understanding how to use the inner thighs properly along with how they relate to the rest of the body to improve balance, healthy hip mechanics, pain-free knees, better ankle mobility and more core support is a part of the process of retraining your body for better health. When you understand the value of better body mechanics you are one step closer to better health.
What are your inner thighs doing for you? Helping you stay strong, healthy, and on-balance? Or are you feeling challenged to stand upright, find it difficult to balance easily on one leg, or are battling to maintain your good health and are struggling with foot, knee, hip, or back pain?
What can YOU do to take action and start incorporating the right inner thigh exercises into your weekly workouts to re-train your body for better posture and develop healthy movement habits?
Is it time for you to find, feel, and focus on your inner thighs?