Each of our bodies is unique, therefore it's not surprising we gain and lose weight faster (or slower) in different parts of the body more so than others. However, according to Stephen Pasterino, creator of P.volve and the go-to trainer of clients like Nadine Leopold and Romee Strijd, the inner thigh is a universally tricky area to sculpt and tone. And the reasoning is actually pretty interesting. (Spoiler: It's partly due to our makeup as women.)
As Pasterino explained to us, our inner thigh muscles are typically dormant (think grizzly bear in the dead of winter), and the absolute hardest part of the female body to tone. And not surprisingly, it's the very first body part his clients ask him about. So he's developed a signature method which incorporates low-impact toning moves to sculpt and lengthen the stubborn area in question. (Many of which you can access through P.volve's super-convenient online streaming program.)
"Sculpting your body, especially the thigh, is not just about doing the move(s), but rather understanding how your muscles and joints work together to create a proportionate and toned figure," Pasterino explains. "Understanding how to activate all of the muscles and joints in your body, and how they function, is key. My goal is to integrate hip-opening movements and small functional stepping patterns to activate, strengthen, and lengthen the muscles without bulking, pulsing, or fatiguing them. This creates a symmetrical, long, and lean shape."
As a result, Pasterino says his clients are able to successfully strengthen the stabilizer muscles, which are essential to controlling eversion in the feet and in turn, waking up those stubborn, formerly dormant inner thigh muscles. Ready to learn even more from Pasterino? Keep reading to decode the biggest misconceptions, the best exercises, and the best diet tips all pertaining to the inner thigh.
The Sculpting Myths:
By now we know there are no quick fixes it when it comes to sculpting your body or losing weight. And more specifically, there isn't any one move or grouping of moves that will magically tone the inner thigh overnight. (To be 100% realistic, it requires time, patience, and a combination of strategic exercise and diet, but more on that in a few.) Which brings us to a quick game of fact versus fiction. Are there any misconceptions surrounding toning the inner thigh? Or any exercises we've been told to do but aren't legitimately effective? We asked Pasterino for all of his intel on the matter.
"The biggest misconception is that doing thigh lifts and/or reformer exercises will automatically tone your thighs thanks to that trademark 'burning' sensation," says Pasterino. So what's the true key to sculpting the inner thigh? According to Pasterino, the secret is focusing on the joint and the joint motions responsible for turning them on as you go about your everyday activities. In particular, he says the ankle joint plays a huge role in activating the inner thigh muscles.
"Without proper motion in the ankle, the muscles won't work. Also, the inner thighs aren't intended to take on a heavy load, as these muscles are used to create stability in the hips instead. Overloading the thighs, which I see a lot in Pilates, causes the muscles to swell up, so it is important to train them functionally." The lesson learned: For a sculpted inner thigh, it's essential to ensure the hip joint is moving properly in the first place.
The Exercise Strategy:
Right off the bat, Pasterino sets the record straight. Yes, his model clientele works incredibly hard to maintain and improve their stamina and fitness (it's part of their job to stay in tip-top shape, after all), but ultimately, trapping yourself in an unhealthy or over-the-top mental space surrounding a workout regimen won't do you any favors. In fact, it might have some negative effects in the long run. To sculpt the inner thigh, Pasterino shares his strategy.
"The best moves you can do to functionally train the inner thigh muscles are stepping patterns. In other words, any moves you do in a wide stance." (Think exercises like high leg lifts or side steps with ankle weights and/or a band.) "These types of exercises work best because they force those inner thigh muscles to activate and stabilize the hip while slowing down the mass and momentum of your body to prevent you from pulling your groin," Pasterino continues. "My favorite step patterns are an open step wide and an internal rotation step—I call it the three o'clock to one o'clock, and I do them in some form or another in every one of my workouts."
According to Pasterino, his standing leg rotation move (see above) specifically targets the top of the thigh on the lifted leg and the inner and outer thigh on the standing leg, which will not only test your balance but will also dive deep into the inner thigh to sculpt muscles commonly overlooked. Just don't go overboard.
"It's important to never overstress your body," he warns. "And in reality, working out too hard and too often can have the opposite effect. I always have my clients take days off, even when they don't want to." According to Pasterino, planned rest days are crucial for letting the muscles recover and to reduce swelling. Oh, and never skimp on sleep, as he says a solid night of shut-eye is one of the most important ways you can recover your mind and body.
The Food Strategy:
My nutrition philosophy is similar to my workout philosophy," Pasterino explains. "It's focused on the sustainable, long-term care of your body with no quick fixes." Instead, he advocates for a daily diet filled with whole, clean foods which will complement an exercise routine (like the moves mentioned above!) to yield confidence-boosting results for his clients. (In fact, get excited because Pasterino is actually collaborating with his wife to write an inflammation-reducing cookbook featuring foods and recipes to lower inflammation while improving digestion. ETA: this fall.)
But what about Victoria's Secret models? After all, we know there's some serious work that goes into their fitness, diet, and beauty routine pre-shoot or –fashion show. We asked Pasterino for the inside scoop. "Eliminating any foods that can bloat or cause inflammation is key," Pasterino emphasizes right off the bat. "Most importantly, I discourage salt, eggs, and packaged foods. We also cut out hard-to-digest vegetables like kale, broccoli, and cauliflower; high-sugar fruits like bananas; and nut butters."
So what does Pasterino encourage? Lots and lots of green vegetables like spinach and asparagus; healthy fats like avocado and extra-virgin olive oil; complex, energy-boosting carbohydrates like quinoa and sweet potatoes; fiber from sources like flax seeds (just make sure they're ground to reap the benefits!); and last but not least, protein (think wild-caught fish and lean, quality red meats like bison).
The Sample Diet:
"Many people think models don't eat, but actually, it's completely the opposite," Pasterino notes. "Not eating leaves your muscles looking flat, and the models I work with need the sustained energy and nutrients of the strategic foods (including carbs!) to maintain high stamina and to keep their muscles looking prominent, conditioned, and strong while walking down a runway. If they aren't eating well, their muscles will lack energy and fall flat—especially the glutes."
That being said, Pasterino isn't a fan of snacking if you're really honing in on your body-sculpting game. "I like to focus on three main meals and occasional dessert spread throughout the week," he clarifies. Instead, he recommends having a light breakfast followed by a normal portioned lunch and dinner to support the immune system and heal the digestive tract. "Time between meals can be anywhere from three to six hours, and I suggest keeping your last meal of the day at least three hours before bedtime."
Curious to see what a Victoria's Secret Angel actually eats pre–fashion show? Keep scrolling for Pasterino's breakdown. And yes, indulges are allowed—albeit strategically.
Every Morning: an apple cider vinegar shot.
Monday and Friday Breakfast: according to Pasterino, Monday and Friday are pre- and post-weekend days, so he suggests eating lighter to help balance out the more indulgent meals we're likely to have on Saturday and Sunday. He recommends half of an avocado (which is full of healthy, satiating fats) paired with half of a grapefruit sprinkled with cinnamon.
Tuesday Through Thursday Breakfast: a bowl of cooked quinoa topped with berries, or a smoothie with greens and one piece of fruit. (He doesn't recommend protein powders or nut butters, which are often laced with hidden sugars and artificial ingredients.)
Daily Lunch: a green salad topped with a lean protein.
Daily Dinner: another lean protein, a cup of healthy carbs (like quinoa or sweet potato), and a side of steamed or sautéed vegetables.
Coupled with his inflammation-reducing workouts, Pasterino tells us this type of meal plan helps his model clientele sculpt hard-to-target body parts (like the inner thigh!) while encouraging maximum definition and strength so they're prepped to walk down the runway.
Want more Angel-approved meals? Here are eight satisfying meals Victoria's Secret models eat for breakfast.