There are worse things in the world than inner-thigh jiggle, but with shorts season here, I’m struggling to think of one.
So say hello to your adductors, those oft-neglected inner-thigh muscles. Ignore them and one thigh inevitably rubs against the other. Whip them into shape and not only will you look better at the beach; you’ll also feel more energy throughout your entire body, helping you run further, swim faster and jump higher.
The secret to success is the inner-thigh squeeze, an isometric exercise that works wonders if you’re willing to focus your effort and be patient—squeezing, holding, breathing.
Yes, you can do it in front of the TV. Or next to your (standing) desk. All you need is an exercise ball: A tennis ball, soccer ball or even one of those inflatable beach balls will work. And so will a foam yoga block, but I don’t want to scare you. You don’t have to be a yogi to figure out where your adductors are and fire them up at will.
STEP 1: Lie on your back on a rug or mat, arms resting at your sides. Have your prop within arm’s reach. Engage your abs; bend your knees; and lift both legs. Stop at a height that is comfortable for you and your lower back.
If you can get them to a 90-degree angle, with just a slight bend, go for it. A lesser angle will work, too. Now relax your body. Feel the small of your back—your sacrum—pressed into the ground. No arching. Let your head and shoulders rest comfortably. Listen to your breath for a few seconds before you take the next step. If you sense pain, back off; slow down. Always be kind to your body.
STEP 2: Place your handy exercise ball or foam block between your knees. Grip it with enthusiasm. Flex your feet, your toes pointing back toward your head. Keep your head and shoulders relaxed, with no tension in your face or jaw. Tighten your quads (your front thigh muscles) and breathe into the back of your hamstrings. It’s helpful to think in pictures, touching your body with your breath—a technique cleverly brought to you by the mind-body connection.
STEP 3: Focus your attention on your adductors—your inner-thigh muscles—and squeeze them together. The prop provides resistance. That’s the challenge; that’s what makes your muscles come alive. Squeeze it for a count of three to five seconds. Hold for another three to five seconds, really maxing out. Then slowly release.
As you squeeze, keep your hips on the mat, and make sure you’re not holding your breath. In fact, you should use your breath to maximize your effort, exhaling energetically as you isolate your inner-thigh muscles. Be happy they’re working hard.
STEP 4: Consider eight to 12 squeezes as a set and aim for one to three sets per session. It’s fine to rest your legs between sets, but not for more than 60 seconds.
VISUALIZE. Create a mental picture of your adductor muscles running up and down the inseams of your legs. You might imagine they are rivers of energy and light. The harder you squeeze, the brighter the light and the stronger the flow. (This isn’t a religious belief. It’s the energy system of your body at work.) Do this every other day for the next month or two. Take a victory stroll down the boardwalk.
RIVER OF ENERGY? Vanity is only one reason to want tighter, stronger thighs. A much better reason has to do with your physiology. All your arterial flow—your blood and other precious fluids—moves through the inseams of your inner legs. Working your adductors this way—squeezing, energizing, releasing—and seeing them as rivers of energy will nurture your entire body. This is true no matter what you weigh. The more you activate your adductors, the more you are helping prevent low back pain. The goal is to be soft and strong at the same time—the principle of strength through relaxation.
And remember this: What’s true for your adductors is true for every muscle in your body,
and you have about 640 of them. Class dismissed, temporarily.