The inner thigh area is a source of anxiety for many people. It tends to store fat and has lower abs and upper arms, so trainers ask, “How do I get rid of this?” It is included in the question.
I totally relate to this and can still feel the sting from my 8th grade friend who likened my thighs to the shape of a piano due to the fat in my upper thighs.
I grew up in the era of Thigh Master, and spent hours trying to cut down on that sweet little part of me by cutting out “squat exercises” from my mom’s women’s magazines.
When I worked as a personal trainer in college and took a lot of anatomy and training classes to get my exercise science degree, I learned that strengthening the inner thighs doesn’t burn fat there.
In the best case scenario, by training the inner thighs, you build stronger muscles underneath the fat, and if you’re really seeing muscle hypertrophy (muscle growth), you can increase the size of your thighs in the process.
So how do you get rid of inner thigh fat?
The short answer is that if you’re genetically predisposed to store fat in that area, you probably won’t lose much.
The longer answer is that you can lose body fat through exercise and diet, but you will lose all of your body fat. You cannot reduce body parts by exercising.
However, don’t lose hope. An increase in muscle mass and a slight decrease in body fat will result in more shapely legs within your genetic potential. I’m going to include a few exercises that will help you with both of these goals.
The best ways to lose fat
The best way to slim your thighs is to combine diet and exercise. First, let’s decide on the diet.
While losing weight isn’t as simple as calories in less, there is some wisdom in this approach.
Burning more calories than you exercise creates an energy imbalance, meaning you need to use your body’s energy stores (fat) to meet your caloric needs ( 1Trusted Source ).
It’s a delicate balance because too much of a calorie deficit works against your metabolism and slows it down with too little calorie intake. To keep your metabolism healthy, try not to create a calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day ( 2 , 3Trusted Source ).
However, diet is only one part. You can boost your metabolism and burn fat by exercising. By doing certain types of exercise, you can burn fat very effectively.
HIIT, or High Intensity Interval Training, is one of the most effective ways to increase strength, burn fat, and boost your metabolism. Not only does it burn more calories, it also affects your overall metabolism by positively altering your insulin response ( 4Trusted Source , 5Trusted Source ).
HIIT allows for some degree of variability, but ultimately involves alternating high, often explosive, high-intensity and recovery-intensive workouts.
High-intensity intervals (lasting 30 seconds to several minutes) should be performed at 85-95% of your maximum effort to get the real metabolic benefits of HIIT.
The benefits of HIIT are many, and perhaps the biggest benefit is the enhanced metabolism it offers. If you can legitimately push yourself at 90-95% HIIT intensity, you’ll burn fat and calories at a high rate for at least 24 hours ( 6Trusted Source ).
Another benefit of HIIT workouts is the variety they offer. You can alternate bodyweight exercises with aerobic recovery intervals like burpees and push-ups, or use resistance-based exercises like weighted lunges and kettlebell swings for your work intervals.
You can do all cardio HIIT, but if your goal is to change your body composition and get leaner thighs, it’s probably best to do the high-intensity portion of your workout with bodyweight strength training.
One thing to keep in mind with HIIT is that due to its intensity, you will need to mix in other types of exercise. The intensity of HIIT is high enough to ensure adequate recovery, and if you’re looking to change your body composition, it’s important to keep your weekends active.
For most people, 2-3 high intensity days per week is sufficient. It’s important to mix in some cardio days and other forms of recovery like yoga and other gentle movements to keep your body strong, refreshed, and ready for the next big push.
Yes, you read that right. Many people underestimate the effect of strength training on body fat because a single session
mice suggests that weight training sets off a hormonal reaction in the body that stimulates fat cells to break down in a process called cellular crosstalk (9, 10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source).
Why? Well, other studies in mice have found that fatty acids released into the bloodstream after fats break down may actually help with tissue repair (12Trusted Source).
In other words, when muscle fibers break down during weight training, fat cells jump in to help rebuild.
The research is new, so more studies need to be done. Still, all that to say: If fat loss is your goal, strength training can only help that process along (13).
Don’t forget good old cardio for fat burning. By combining it with a strength-based interval training plan and at least one day per week of recovery, you can keep your metabolic fires burning with a couple of good cardiovascular workouts during the week.
You can mix and match your modality (running, biking, or swimming, for example) and the type of cardio workout you do to keep your body and mind interested and responsive.
Long, slow distance cardio
Long, slow distance, or LSD, is an easy workout to get into if you have a bit of time to dedicate to the task. It’s a cardio workout done at a lower intensity for a longer duration.
For instance, a slightly longer swim at a slower speed or even a long, gentle hike in the woods. Intensity is not a goal of this workout, just endurance.
You will burn primarily fat for energy in this type of workout, and while the ultimate calorie burn level is lower, it’s still fuel for the fire of your goal of getting leaner. An LSD workout is good for endurance and can be used as a recovery workout if the intensity is suitably low (14Trusted Source).
Exercises to strengthen the inner thighs
While reducing fat through diet and exercise is your best bet for shaping your inner thighs, keeping the muscles strong will still give you that nice lean look. Here are some effective exercises to target this area.
- Sumo squat
Set your feet out wide, turning toes out to about the 10:00 and 2:00 positions. Hold a dumbbell for added resistance.
Keep your chest up high as you bend your knees, keeping your knees pointed out over your toes. As you come up out of the sumo squat, squeeze your abs, glutes, and inner thighs.
Do 2 sets of 12–15 reps.
- Side lunge
Stand tall with your feet together. Hold a dumbbell at your chest for added resistance.
Step out with your right leg and start sending your hips back as you bend your right knee. During the descent, your knee should not move more than about 2 inches beyond your toes and you should keep your knee aligned between your second and third toe.
Push off with your right leg to return to a standing position.
Repeat on the left leg to complete 1 rep.
Do 2 sets of 12–15 reps.
- Curtsy lunge
Stand tall with your feet together.
Step your right leg behind the left, bending both knees and pulling both knees slightly towards the midline to squeeze your inner thighs.
As you stand to exit the curtsy lunge, you can either tap your right foot or lift your knee for a greater intensity and balance challenge.
Repeat on the right side for 10–12 reps.
Repeat on the left, and then do an additional set on each side.
Stand with your feet together, knees slightly flexed, and abdominals engaged.
Push off with your right leg to hop to your left, allowing yourself to leave the floor on the way.
As you land on your left leg, cross your right leg slightly behind, in a small curtsy lunge, hinged forward at the hip.
Return to the right side with a small hop to complete the first full rep.
You can do these faster as more of a power move with a strong cardio effect or go slower with emphasis on range of motion. Either way, you’ll strengthen your inner thighs along with your glutes and abdominals.
- Side-lying adduction
Lie on the floor on one side with your top leg bent and dropped forward, supporting your top leg with a yoga block or a pillow for comfort if necessary.
Extend your lower leg length. Keep hips stacked as you lift your bottom leg, engaging your abdominals as you lift and lower your leg.
Do 15–20 reps before switching to the other side and repeating. Do a total of 2 sets on each side.