The so-called ‘thigh gap’ has triggered a lot of debate among fitness experts and nutritionists who can’t seem to agree on whether it is a realistic physical goal. On the one hand, you have trainers and fitness models saying that anybody can have sleek, svelte thighs which don’t meet in the middle.
On the other, you’ve got dietitians claiming that the thigh gap is largely down to genetics. Specifically, whether or not you have naturally wide hips. Fortunately, what is clear is the fact that you definitely can tone and refine this area of the body. With the right exercises and a consistent routine, a good thigh gap workout is guaranteed to deliver results.
Stretch & Warm-up
No matter which part of your body is being targeted, it’s important to prepare and get properly warmed up first. When it comes to the upper legs, there are some great warm up exercises which you can do to activate the muscles. Gentle walking, for instance, is very effective and so is a slow session on the stationary bikes or treadmill.
Alternatively, you can perform a wide-legged squat. This move warms up the quads and strengthens the hip flexors. This makes it a good precursor to a thigh gap workout. Start by standing with feet apart and turned outwards. Bend your knees just past your feet, but keep them in line with one another. Place hands on knees.
Ground your right hand on your right knee (or vice versa) and twist your body so that you’re just looking over your shoulder. You can carry out all of the left side squats (15-20) and then switch to the right or alternate. It helps to do the twisting on an exhale. If you’re not used to this kind of warm up, it might be hard to sustain at first, but keep practicing.
The final exercise is a good way to end your thigh gap workout. It sees you lying on the mat again, in that same sideways pose (with legs and arms stacked). You can support your head with the bottom arm if it increases comfort and stability. Now, lift the top leg and straighten it so that it is in line with your body.
The next step is to perform a gentle, fluid circle. The best way to do this is to lead with your foot, but take care not to lose the pose. Switch between clockwise and anticlockwise directions. This move is a little easier than the rest. It will definitely target your inner thighs, but it’s low intensity, so you can end on a calmer, less intense note.
Pilates Leg Lifts
There’s a reason why this second exercise feels a bit old fashioned. It has been a staple of home workout routines for decades. The Pilates leg lift is a simple move, but it works all of the muscles in the inner thigh group. To perform it, start out by lying on your side. Your body should be relaxed but arranged in a nice, straight line.
Now, raise the top leg until the knee is bent at a 90-degree angle. You can rest your knee or foot on the floor. This leg doesn’t have to be suspended. Then, while exhaling, lift the bottom leg off the ground, hold it for a few seconds, and then release. Repeat for ten or twenty reps, depending on your level of ability. Switch to the other side when finished.
The lateral (or side) lunge is fantastic at toning the inner and outer thighs. Plus, you can very easily boost the value of this exercise by adding a simple leg cross. Start by standing upright, with your feet together. Hands should be on hips. Take a wide step outwards on the left side. The leg needs to be very straight, but you can lower your body closer to the ground.
In fact, the deeper you can lateral lunge, the harder you’ll work out those thighs. Don’t forget to push through your heel as you hold the pose. To add a little extra flourish (and target the stomach muscles), raise the leg as you return to a standing position. Without touching the ground, swiftly cross it in front of your body. Repeat and then switch to the opposite side.
Inner Leg Lift
For a more intense version of the Pilates leg lift (and a harder thigh gap workout), try the double leg lift. It defines the inner and outer thighs, as well as giving those oblique muscles some love too. All you have to do is lie on a mat, on your side. Make sure that your body is relaxed but in a relatively straight, neat line.
Tuck the bottom arm underneath your head for support. Your legs should be stacked on top of one another, with the toes pointing outwards. Now, place your other hand on the floor in front of you for extra stability. Then, lift both legs in their straight line and squeeze the thighs together as you hold the pose.
Plie squats (pronounced ‘plee-ay’) are so called because they resemble a move which ballet dancers practice all the time. We all know that dancers always have incredible thighs, so it’s worth giving this exercise a go. To begin, stand upright, but move your body into the traditional plie position.
This is defined by toes pointing outwards and feet set wide. Try to aim for shoulder width, but it is okay if this is too tricky at first. Keep the pelvis and upper body straight. Now, lower your body until the thighs are parallel (or as close as possible) to the floor. Sustain, hold, and squeeze the glutes before returning to the start position.
The bridge raise is another classic move which you can add to your thigh gap workout. It begins with a supine position. You should be lying comfortably on your back, with knees bent. Make sure that your feet are hip distance apart. Most people like to keep their hands firmly on the floor, but use them for stability and not to push yourself upwards.
The aim is to be doing this entirely with your legs. So, push your pelvis right up off the mat and into the air. The ribs need to stay relatively aligned with the knees during this move. Sustain and hold the position for maximum impact. Finally, slowly lower your pelvis back to the floor and repeat as many times as preferred.
The penguin walk looks absurd. So, at the very least, you’ll give yourself a good laugh while working out. It might feel a bit silly, but it is absolutely worthwhile. Start in that classic plie position that we just talked about; the one with the toes pointing out and the feet stretched far apart. The difference is that you don’t stand still with this exercise.
Remain in the wide plie position but try to take several steps forward. Then, step backward, all the while holding the pose. This is a really difficult exercise, particularly for beginners, but keep at it even if you struggle at first. The goal should be to hold the pose for a minute. Be warned though, because it really burns those thigh muscles.
The Beauty of Leg and Thigh Exercises
You might be surprised to find that lower body exercises have a positive impact on exercises targeting all muscle groups, including the arms and stomach. This is because they put the body in a state which is conducive to burning more fat and building up muscle. It is why you shouldn’t skip leg day at the gym.
As for the thigh gap, it’s important to be realistic and have healthy goals. Even if you are determined to create one, through diet or exercise, you’ve got to remember that it’s a purely aesthetic goal. There is no evidence that having a thigh gap makes you a healthier or fitter person. It just looks very desirable, so do be aware of what it is you’re trying to achieve.