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.
1 Stand with your feet together in parallel and your arms in a half T.
and 2 Slice your arms down to your sides and ball-change your right foot back, staying in parallel.
3 Battement your right leg to the side and swing your arms up to an L (your left arm next to your ear and your right arm to the side, making a 90-degree angle).
4 Bring both feet together in parallel while swinging your arms down to your sides.
5 Pivot to the left diagonal, popping the right foot. Bring your right arm to your shoulder in dagger position and your left hand to your hip.
6 Do one chug in place, keeping your right foot popped and your left hand on your hip. Swing your right arm down to a low V.
7 and Jump out to a small runner’s lunge on the left diagonal. Pop your back (right) foot as you swing your right arm forward in a counterclockwise circle. Release your head back on “and.”
8 Bend both knees in parallel second, bringing your chest and poms down to your left knee with your elbows out and your head down, in line with your spine.
1 Step out on your right foot, turning over your left shoulder to face the back. Bring your right arm to a low V and your left hand to your hip.
2 Step across your body with your left foot while extending your left arm to a low V and putting your right hand on your hip.
3 Step out with your right foot while extending your left arm straight up to your ear, keeping your right hand on your hip.
and Step across your body with your left foot, bringing your left arm down to a T and keeping your right hand on your hip.
4 Step out with your right foot, turning your body to face the right side, as you swing your left arm down and around to extend straight out in front of you. Look straight ahead and keep your right hand on your hip.
5 Stepping onto your left foot, pivot over your left shoulder to face the left side, pliéing on your left leg while bringing your right foot to parallel coupé. Shoot both arms out in front of you to candlestick position.
and Straighten your legs, bringing your feet together, and pull both arms to your chest in dagger position.
6 Plié your left leg while shooting your right leg up to parallel passé and slicing your arms down to your sides.
7 Turning over your left shoulder, step forward on your right foot, with your right leg in plié, your left leg bent and your left heel popped. Break your arms to a low V.
You spend your days jumping, leaping, bending, twisting and generally putting a ton of stress on your knees. But be kind to them—they’re two of your most important body parts! One of the best ways to avoid knee pain is to strengthen the muscles surrounding your kneecaps. “These exercises will help improve your alignment, which is essential for knee health,” says DS fitness consultant Michelle Rodriguez, who is the founder of Manhattan Physio Group in NYC. “Many knee injuries can be avoided if you pay careful attention to always keeping the knee over the middle of the foot, regardless of whether you’re in parallel or turned out.”
Bridge with Pillow Squeeze
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart. Place a folded pillow between your knees.
Press into your heels to lift your pelvis off the ground until it’s level with your knees. Don’t let the pillow drop! Keep the sides of your pelvis level and your belly button pulled into your spine as you lower your hips to the ground. Repeat 10 times.
With your hips lifted in the bridge position, straighten one knee. Keep the rest of your body level and stable.
Keeping your hips elevated, bend your knee, and slowly lower your foot to the floor. Repeat on the other side. Repeat five times on each side.
Double Leg Squat (that’s “chair pose” for you yoga buffs!)
Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
Begin to squat by reaching your sit bones back past your heels and bending your knees to 100 degrees. Keep your weight in your heels and reach your arms forward to counter-balance your weight. Make sure your kneecaps don’t pass beyond your second and third toes. Press into your heels and activate your glute muscles to return to standing, bringing your hips in line with your shoulders and lowering your arms to your sides. Repeat 10–15 times.
Parallel Pliés with Heel Taps
Stand on your right leg with your left leg extended in front of you, a few inches off the ground. Hold your left arm out to the side for balance.
Bend your right knee—be sure to align your kneecap directly over your second and third toes—as you reach your left foot to the ground in front of you, lightly tapping your heel to the floor.
Straighten your right knee as you lift your left leg, reaching your left foot out to the side.
Plié your right leg as you tap your left heel to the floor. Your right leg should be doing all the work.
Repeat to the front and side, completing 10 reps each and then switching to the opposite side. Pay attention to proper alignment throughout the exercise. Your working knee should bend directly over your toes.
Michelle Rodriguez, MPT, OCS, CMPT, is the founder and director of Manhattan Physio Group. She is a physical therapist specializing in orthopedic manual therapy and dance rehabilitation.
Photography by Sibté Hassan. Hair and makeup by Chuck Jensen for Mark Edward Inc. modeled by nikeva stapleton.
Nikeva Stapleton is a graduate of the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program. She is currently a freelance dancer and model in NYC.