Your inner thigh muscles help to turn out your legs, stabilize that turnout when you’re standing on one leg, and adduct (close) your legs (i.e. descending from a battement, closing a tendú, or performing changements and beats). One of the greatest ways to strengthen one’s inner thigh muscles is through ballet—that’s part of why barre workouts are so popular nowadays. Pliés, passes, rond de jambe, and other basic exercises help to work the adductors. But sometimes dancers tend to overwork their glutes and quads, making it hard to activate the inner thigh muscles. Here are three simple physical therapy exercises for dancers who want to focus on strengthening and paying closer attention to activating their inner thighs.
Leg lifts: Lie on your left side with your head propped on your hand. Place your left foot on the floor in front of your straightened right leg. Slowly raise and lower the bottom leg, extending out through a flexed heel. Repeat for three sets of 10. You can spice up this exercise with pulses, tiny circles, and keep the right foot from ever touching the ground. Make sure to do this exercise on the right and the left to even out both sides.
Supine changement: Lie on your back with your legs straight up to the ceiling. Open your legs into a wide straddle. Turnout your legs and flex your feet before closing your legs back together. Repeat for three sets of 10. You can add “beats” when your legs reach the top for a little extra adductor burn.
Double leg lift: Place a bouncy ball (or a pillow folded in half) between your ankles, so you have to squeeze it to keep it from falling. Lie on your side and support your head with your bottom hand. Extend your legs away from your head. Squeezing the ball, raise and lower both legs a few inches off the ground. Repeat for three sets of 10 on each side.
Practicing these exercises before ballet class will help activate your adductors and eventually help improve your turnout, stability, and agility in class.