The thigh gap: many women want it, and very few have it. First of all, keep in mind that a thigh gap has a lot to do with your bone structure, and no exercise in the world can change that.
If your hips are wide you’re more likely to achieve a thigh gap, versus if they are narrow. It also depends on muscle insertions, as some people’s muscles simply don’t have the shape or length to have a thigh gap.
Perhaps more importantly, keep in mind that as women, we are naturally curvy and carry more fat than men. In fact, this is a biological necessity that allows for reproduction, fertility and hormonal balance. There is no health or fitness benefit to having a thigh gap. You can be incredibly lean and fit and still never have a thigh gap. So before killing yourself to get one, consider:
- Does your bone structure even allow for a thigh gap?
- Are you perhaps actually at a healthy weight, already?
If the answer to these questions is no or you simply want to build thigh muscle for both aesthetics or the overall health that comes from building muscle, read on for 11 ways to get a thigh gap. If you’re a senior, check out this article for specific tips on how to build muscle mass after age 70.
Fat loss and muscle gain is always a dance between nutrition, exercise and lifestyle.
This list will start with exercise strategies to get a thigh gap, then move onto to a few other complementary practices to burn fat. If you’re unsure how to execute these exercises with proper form, check out the links to instructional videos. It’s always important to get the form right before adding any additional weight, such as dumbbells or barbells.
1. Sumo Squats
This wide leg squat variation is great to work your adductors (inner thigh muscles) and glutes. With your legs about 6-12 inches wider than your shoulders, squat down until your thighs are parallel to the floor, and raise back up. Keep the weight on your heels.
2. Leg Lifts
If you’ve ever been to a Pilates class, you’re probably familiar with this simple yet effective exercise. Lay on your side with legs stacked, head resting in your palm in a propped-up position. Lift the top leg and lower back down. Repeat for 10-20 repetitions on each side.
3. Lateral (Side) Lunges
While all lunge variations (reverse, front, tranverse and crossover) are excellent for leg toning, lateral lunges are especially effective for inner thigh toning. You can do static lateral lunges or add a calorie burn by alternating and coming together in the middle between each lunge.
Check out this video for proper form, as these lunges can be tricky.
4. Floor Bridges
The floor bridge is a great exercise for hamstring, glute and low back strength. It also supports hip mobility, which is important for injury prevention. Lay on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor, hip distance apart. Pressing through your heels, lift the hips and lower back down.
5. Swiss Ball Squeeze
You’ll definitely feel the burn with this exercise! As simple as it looks, this is a pretty advanced move that can be modified depending on your strength and fitness level. To start, you’ll lay on your back with your legs lifted and bent at a 90 degree angle. Hold the Swiss ball (AKA stability or yoga ball) between your legs, and squeeze the ball between your inner thighs for 30 seconds.
Be sure your low back doesn’t arch off the floor, and you can always start with 10-15 seconds, and slowly work your way up. If you don’t belong to a gym, I like this Swiss ball and yoga set for at-home resistance workouts.
6. Pilates Scissor Kicks
If you’re wondering if you should just go take a Pilates class for an inner thigh gap, the answer is yes! Here is another effective leg exercise that also targets the adductors, and is common in Pilates. This movement syncs breath with movement, so check out this instructional video for clarification. Similarly to the last exercise, you’ll need to pay attention that your low back stays protected, and modify as needed.
7. HIIT Training
In terms of cardio, HIIT (high intensity interval training) has been shown to be a very effective strategy for burning fat and boosting metabolism. HIIT can be modified for any fitness level, and simply refers to alternating between bursts of all-out effort, and rest. You can use any exercise you enjoy, such as running, walking uphill, jumping squats or jump rope. You could think out-of-the-box and rekindle your love of rollerblading, which also happens to be a great inner thigh workout.
If you’re new to HIIT, you might start with a five minute warm up, 10 rounds of 30 seconds sprint and one minute of rest, and a five minute cool down. This interval timer is a great investment for a home gym set-up, and many clients that I’ve worked with have found it extremely beneficial for getting a good HIIT routine going.
8. A Whole Foods Diet
With weight loss in general, nutrition is just as (if not more) important than exercise. You can gain as much muscle as you’d like, but if it’s covered in excess fat you’ll never achieve an inner thigh gap or any noticeable muscular definition.
Avoid sugar and processed carbohydrates like white bread and pasta, instead sticking with protein, healthy fats, lots of vegetables and fruits, and whole foods carbohydrate sources from whole grains, legumes and root vegetables, such as sweet potato. Check out this article on how to wean yourself off of sugar.
9. Portion Control
While there is a lot more to weight loss than just “calories in, calories out” the basic science of energy intake and expenditure holds true. Keep portions moderate by eating foods that fill you up, such as the whole foods diet model mentioned above.
When you eat foods that satisfy your body’s macro and micronutrient needs, it’s a lot easier to stick with appropriate serving sizes, instead of using willpower alone to eat less pizza and soda.
10. Adequate Protein
Protein is the macronutrient that keeps us satiated (full) more than the others, and it has a higher thermic effect, meaning it raises the body’s metabolism after consumption. Not only this, but protein is also essential for building and maintaining muscle mass, which is important if you want strong thighs or an inner thigh gap.
If you struggle to eat enough protein, I love this PurePaleo Protein Powder by Designs for Health as an easy and nutritious way to up your protein intake.
11. Stress Management
If this seems like an unlikely factor in achieving an inner thigh gap, think again. Chronic, high levels of stress raise the body’s stress hormone cortisol, among others. Cortisol has a ripple effect over other hormones, especially insulin, and both of these hormones store fat in the body. If you are over-stressed, losing fat or managing weight can become next to impossible. Find stress management techniques that work for you, such as yoga, deep breathing, meditation, time with friends or time in nature.
An inner thigh gap certainly won’t bring you happiness or even improved fitness, but following these tips will make you healthier. And along the way, you’ll build inner thigh strength and improve your overall health, which is clearly a win.