Muscle Imbalance: Inner and Outer Thighs


the inner and outer thighs tend to suffer from muscle imbalance when they should be equal in tone

inner thighs

The inner and outer thighs should not have a muscle imbalance but they often do.

outer thighs

Muscle imbalance in the area of the inner and outer thighs is one of the body’s most consternating issues. Most people have outer thighs that dominate the inner thighs in strength and function. This muscle imbalance is most easily seen in the way many people walk down the street with their feet turned out. That doesn’t happen in legs with balanced inner and outer thighs.

  • Come to, stand with the feet close together and parallel, or as close to parallel as one can bear. This automatically brings better balance to the inner and outer thighs.
  • Press down into the inner ball of your foot, the mound of your big toe. You should feel the inner upper thigh tone or activate slightly.
  • Then roll to the outside of your foot. Feel if the outer thigh tones more here and the inner thigh leaves the picture.

We are meant to use our whole foot when standing and walking but an incredible number of people are living on the outside of their feet due to this muscle imbalance between the inner thighs and the outer thighs. It has a number of ramifications.

  • If the upper leg is out of balance you can be sure that the lower leg is out of balance as well.
  • The usual muscle imbalance of tight outer thighs and lax inner thighs makes it difficult to access the inner foot when walking.
  • The inner thighs are meant to assist in a internal rotation that helps to activate the psoas muscle. If tight outer thighs limit the access to this rotation the body can’t take advantage of the mechanical advantages the psoas has to offer.
  • The outer thigh is technically meant to internally rotate but the lack of balance between the inner and outer thigh usually allows for the outer thigh to rotate externally leading to tight IT bands and other gluteal issues.

The next post will cover an exercise for building tone in the inner thighs and releasing extra work in the outer thighs.
If you found this post to be helpful, you might be interested in my Psoas Release Party! video set.

For a limited time we are offering my Psoas Release Party! video on sale at a specially discounted price. The Psoas Release Party! can both explain your issues and help you get out of pain by letting go of long held tension with relative ease. Click below for more information and get a free psoas infographic.

Reciprocal Inhibition
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35 Comments
  1. Hi I have been looking through your page and I. Also have sciwanted to ask you a question? I have maany muscle imbalances and I have figured out most of them but I can’t figure out what muscles are causing my high hip. I also have sciatic. Pain. I have noticed that the right outer thigh is tighter than the left one and I have pain on the left side. Do you think the imbalance. Is in the outer and inner thighs. And if so how do I fix it? Also can the outer thigh pull the pelvis out of place?

    • Classically, hip hike is connected to the deep gluteal muscles- gluteus minimus and medius. Sciatic pain that originates in the buttocks rather than the lower back might be piriformis syndrome which is often connected with dysfunction in the gluteal muscle. The sciatic pain is on the left side? The tight outer thigh can definitely pull the pelvis out of place as well. You clearly have a lot of things going on. Check out my posts on posture and the position of the pelvis. These are the two issues that you have to start with in order to begin healing your situation.

  2. I would like to see the post you mention, “The next post will cover an exercise for building tone in the inner thighs and releasing extra work in the outer thighs..”. Unfortunately, I have not be able to locate it. I have been squeezing pillows between my knees while lying on my back. Other ideas? Thanks.

    Tim

  3. Hi thanks for this information. I have an inwardly rotated femur which is due to muscle imbalance as it developed over time. Which muscles should I be strengthening? The outer thigh through leg raises or ? Thanks for your input.

    • Hi Melanie,You want to test your muscles to see which are weaker. Try working the inner thigh with a block between your thighs and then try leg raises with the outer thighs. WOrk to figure out what is happening in the muscles and which needs more work.

    • You’d have to send me a picture to show me what you mean. I don’t meet many people whose inner thighs are too strong. It might be the inner thighs but it might be something else.

  4. Hi, I have knock knees but I did not have them as a child. I seemed to have developed them when I picked up weight as a teenager and the more noticeably when I lost the weight. My thighs rotates inward and I have really really sore abductors. I feel there is a muscle imbalance causing the issue. Any thoughts on how I can correct this? Please?

    • Hi find the video on the blog for block between the thighs. Start with this exercise and don’t use your abductors. If the adductors are weak the abductors will want to do all the work. Don’t let them.

  5. Hi man~ great stuff and really appreciated!!
    I have a problem man, which I think may be related to this….
    I have a problem with mu quad muscle group in my thighs.
    They are bigger as in the sense that they are dispraportionate to the rest of my body and legs. Just to clear a few common issues mostly brought up, I do not have a family of big quads and is there unlikely to be genetic and while I won’t deny there is obviously some fat present(as that is required) it is not the issue. What I have here is a muscle issue. Its rather problematic as I have quite skinny legs from knee down and a skinny waist. But my quads stick out into my pants and protrude thusly and personally I hate this. It looks so bad.
    What is more frustrating is that it is a question of muscle and technique related to my walking. I believe that through bad sports practice from early age or bad techniques with my bboying( breakdance) from young has caused me to become muscle bound or something to that effect. I went on rigourous eating adjustments a year or so ago and whittled down the fat…. thus slightly decreasing my outer leg size. I then tried just a salad diet to get better results and try eat the muscle, but I could not maintain that. It was only late last year or so that I realised that when I walked I was working my quads in a dramatic way. I think I was putting my weight on my toes and I lifted my foot in walking thus greatly exercising my quads. So, I then made my walk on a more flatter foot and felt inner muscles working however, these were, in fact, my inner quads or somthing not my gracilis area. It resulted in a decrease of my outer quads a bit. but this then ceased in results as my new muscle had built to capacity( I assume). I also walk with my feet turned out but more diagonally so then horizontal.My legs are spread quite wide when I stand and in walking I just cant seem to get my inner muscle to work. Will placing my feet or the space between my legs help?? I know this is a wlaking problem…. ALL HELP MUCH APPRECIATED AND KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!!!!

  6. I really enjoy your posts and find the information you provide very valuable Keep it coming…. I’m hoping you might be able to answer a question I have a question regarding this post: Is it really as easy to decide whether you should strengthen your inner or outer thighs by whether the femur is rotated internally or externally? If someone has external femurs, I agree the adductors may be weak, but due to the external foot and femur rotation, the individual may likely be compensating by walking with the adductor instead of the primary hip flexor, so aren’t they also bound to be tight?

    • Hi Lisa, the main issue is muscle testing. Adductors can be both tight and weak. I think you are right that many people are walking with the adductors through compensation but that makes the muscle work outside of its responsibility. It needs to be retrained and toned in the proper alignmnent.

  7. Hi Jonathan,

    I have been battling an issue since last January. It started after laying floor tile and and having to reset tile which I think put too much pressure on the knee and strain on the hip to lift the tile back up to even it out.
    I think my hips maybe tightened (no pain), and glutes shut down. I started walking on the outside of my foot more to stop the knee cracking that started.
    My inner thigh then wasted away.
    Fast forward to today…I have internal rotation when I keep my foot forward. It gets worse standing on one leg. It does not collapse, just slowly turns inward. My foot turns outward to compensate when walking if knee is pointing forward.
    It causes medial knee pain, esp. around the patella. Running is still out.
    Physical therapist said I am strong enough from hips to toe. He said my muscles are all proper length and hips flexible and rotation fine…thinks it is nueromuscular at this point.
    Doctor says inner thigh/vmo very weak and causing all this. I am working out hard on this and added hack squats on machine which seems to help a little at first like everything else but I still rotate inward walking and standing, and even at rest does not feel right.
    What should I do? I am started to concentrate more on walking on the inside of my foot. I feel severely restricted when I stand on one leg and try to rotate externally. It also cause the hamstrings to be dominant because when I force proper alignment the glutes contract a lot more.
    Thanks,

    Steve

    • Hi Steve, Are you on our email list. We just offered a free walking analysis to everyone who gets our newsletter. Feel free to take a video of yourself walking from all angles (especially from the side) and send it to me and I’ll let you know what I think. Best, Jonathan

  8. Hello Jonathan,

    I’ve been searching the internet for the last few years trying to figure out why my pelvis (hips) and legs feel so out of balance and I feel like I FINALLY found the answer! I never realized I had such weak inner thighs, which I believe has greatly contributed to my back pain. The longer I have gone on like this, the more I feel the rest of my body has become imbalanced. I can feel the imbalance all the way up to my shoulders and jaw! I had lower back surgery (fusion of L5/S1) back in 2008 and it didn’t help with my pain whatsoever. In fact, it only got worse over time, which has led to being more bedridden. I noticed my problem after giving my dog a bath in the shower. I was actually using my inner thighs for the first time in what feels like forever and when I tried standing back up straight after bending at the waist and knees while giving her a bath and my legs felt wobbly and weak trying to straighten myself back up. I didn’t feel as much pain as I normally would have upon standing and have noticed that working the inner thighs helped reduce the back pain I have had for 8 years now. Your article is a revelation to me and I just wanted to thank you for the information because after years of thinking I would just have to deal with the pain, I have found hope in the fact that the need to strenthen my inner thighs can help reduce, if not eliminate, my back pain and muscle imbalances in the body. Thanks again! 🙂

  9. I forgot to say one thing……I think the reason I started walking differently was to compensate for pain in my right knee. When I was about 11, I was running up some stairs to get to class and tripped and the front on my knee hit the corner of the step where the rise and run of the step meet. It was painful when it first happened, but eventually it “healed,” but I also noticed a large hard, bony feeling lump where my knee was hit. For some reason, several years later (about high school age) I began noticing pain in that knee and to reduce the pain, I believe I began changing the way I walked. Another thing that is a HUGE problem is that I took a fitness walking class in college and the instructor told us to walk on the outer part of the foot, which is not the correct way to walk! It bothers me that anyone would teach someone to walk in a way that I’d not healthy for the body. Right now, I am trying to regain muscle balance on both sides of the body. Not only do I have hip hike, my pelvis is also slightly rotated to one side causing the right outer hip and thigh to feel stronger than the other. Like I mentioned in my earlier post, both legs have muscle imbalances, but each imbalance is different in both legs. I’m hoping that my body will be able to adjust after years of muscle imbalances. Unfortunately, I can’t monitor myself during sleep, which is a problem for me because my body eventually relaxes back into the position that has only furthered the imbalances. Do you have any advice on how I can avoid this during sleep and kinda speed up the adjustment of my body back to its normal, balanced state?

  10. Hi,

    Just joined this: really interested in the statement below. Did it ever happen?

    The next post will cover an exercise for building tone in the inner thighs and releasing extra work in outer thigh

    Can’t find anything new post about it. Any help?

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