In the 1990s, actress Suzanne Somers turned the funky-looking ThighMaster into a fitness hit. And we get it! It’s crucial, especially for dancers, to tone those inner thighs. “The inner thigh, like any upper leg area, helps stabilize the knee joint,” says dancer, personal trainer and group fitness instructor Deborah Horton. “It’s important to work your turnout from your hip, which is a problem for many dancers—they try to work it from their knees. Having strong inner thighs will help with that rotation.”
But you don’t need a bulky piece of equipment (sorry, Suzanne) to get your legs whipped into shape. Try these no-fuss exercises, created by Horton exclusively for you!
Standing Plié Squat
Start in a wide second-position plié, turned out, with your arms in second position and your palms facing up.
Squeeze your thighs and glutes as you straighten your legs and raise your arms overhead.
Return to the starting position. Do three sets of 10 reps at a quick pace.
Make it harder! At the end of each set, hold the plié position and do 20 small pulses up and down.
Really feel the burn: After the plié pulses, stay low and pulse your knees forward 20 times.
Only for the advanced: At the end of the series, lift your heels and squeeze your inner thighs up into relevé, raising your arms straight above your head. Hold for 10 counts.
Horton says: “Make sure your lower core is engaged throughout the series and your hips stay directly beneath your shoulders.”
Stand in first position relevé with your hands on your hips.
Do small plié pulses, remaining in relevé, for 20 counts, and then hold in plié for 20 counts.
Finish by straightening your knees and lifting your arms overhead. Hold for 20 counts. Do three sets.
Horton says: “Focus on your lower core and keeping your hips and shoulders open.”
Leg Lifts in First Position
Begin in first position with your hands on your hips. Extend your flexed left foot forward, shifting your balance onto your right leg.
Bring your left leg back to the starting position without letting it come all the way to the floor. Repeat 20 times. Then switch sides. Do two sets on each side.
Make it harder! At the end of the set, keep your left leg lifted and do 20 pulses upward.
The Straddle Squeeze
Lie flat on your back with your arms by your sides. Lift your legs straight up to form
a 90-degree angle with your torso, flexing your feet in first position. Beat your right foot forward into fifth position.
Beat your left foot forward into fifth position.
Point your toes and open your legs into a wide second.
Squeeze your inner thighs and lift your legs back to the starting position. Do three sets of 20.
Horton says: “Contract your core and push your lower back into the floor. Having your palms by your sides will help stabilize your hips.”
Lie flat on your back with your arms by your sides. Lift your legs straight up, with your feet flexed in first position.
Plié your legs, keeping them turned out with your heels together. Your hips and shoulder blades should stay flat on the ground.
Push your heels back toward the ceiling slowly, like you’re pushing resistance away from you. Repeat the series 20 times. Do three sets.
Lean on your right elbow with your left knee bent and foot on the ground. Lift your right leg off the ground slightly, flexing your foot to activate your leg muscles.
Lift your right leg a few inches higher. Lower your right leg to the starting position. Don’t let it touch the floor. Repeat 20 times and then switch sides. Do at least two sets per side.
Horton says: “Stabilize your core and push down into your right shoulder. For extra difficulty, you can hold a book or something weighted on your working leg.”
Make it harder! Instead of resting on your elbow, do the exercise in a lifted side plank, either on your forearm or the palm of your right hand.
Photography by Erin Baiano. Hair and makeup by Ananda Khan. Modeled by Deborah Horton. Deborah Horton is a dancer, personal trainer and AFAA-certified group fitness instructor in NYC. Most recently, she created a customized workout for the new “Blood Type Workout” series.