10 of the Best Moves for Your Thigh Workouts

10 of the Best Moves for Your Thigh Workouts

The best thigh workouts not only build muscle, but, by training some of the largest muscle groups in your body, they also burn an incredible number of calories.

“By working the muscles in our thighs and getting them stronger, we end up building more muscle in the area that gives our thighs a toned, lean look as we end up decreasing our entire total body-fat percentage,” says Lirjon “Logan” Fisniku, C.P.T., a Chicago-based personal trainer.

That means that while it’s impossible to spot-reduce fat through thigh workouts alone, spot-gaining muscle is 100% possible.

Upgrade your thigh workouts and strengthen your quads, hamstrings, glutes, adductors, and abductors with these expert moves. Perform them in order with the sets and reps listed. Or, you can integrate your favorite thigh exercises from this workout into your own routine.

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Note: You will need a pair of dumbbells for some of the movements.

1. Toy Soldier

This dynamic thigh stretch targets the hamstrings.

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and core braced.
  • With your knees straight and feet flexed, swing the right leg forward and up to feel a stretch in the back of your thigh.
  • Lower the right foot to the floor with control, step forward, and repeat with the left leg.
  • Continue walking forward, alternating the swinging leg with each step.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 reps per side. Rest 30 seconds between sets.

 

2. Attitude

rear leg lift extension attitude woman

As you balance on one foot, this leg exercise strengthens your glutes and hamstrings while it improves your posture and core stability.

  • Stand tall with your heels together and toes slightly turned out. Place your hands on your hips and brace your core.
  • Step your right foot behind you slightly. Lightly touch the floor with your big toe, letting your heel drop slightly inward.
  • Keeping your torso tall, squeeze your right glutes to raise your right leg behind you and up as far as possible.
  • Lower your foot to the floor under control and repeat.
  • Do 2 sets of 10 reps per side. Rest 30 seconds between sets.

 

3. Squat Jacks

how to do a squat jack - squat jack gif

This mash-up of squats and jumping jacks will strengthen your lower body, fire up your core, build stamina, burn calories, and more.

  • Stand tall with your feet together, arms at your sides, and core braced.
  • Keeping your back neutral, push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a deep squat. Reach your hands to the sides of your ankles.
  • Jump up and out, raising your hands over your head and springing your feet out to your sides. At the top of the move, your body should form an “X” in the air.
  • Immediately reverse the motion to land back into a deep squat, and repeat.
  • Do 2 sets of 15 to 20 reps. Rest 30 seconds between sets.

 

4. Dumbbell Swing

Grab a dumbbell for this intermediate move that works your hamstrings and more.

  • Stand tall with your feet between hip- and shoulder-width apart, and brace your core. Let a dumbbell hang in your left hand in front of your thighs.
  • Keeping your back neutral, arm straight, and core braced, push your hips back to “hike” the dumbbell between your legs. Let your knees bend slightly, and hold your right hand out to your side for balance.
  • Drive through your heels to thrust your hips forward and stand as tall as possible. Let the momentum of your hips swing the dumbbell up to shoulder height; do not work your arm to raise the dumbbell.
  • Once the dumbbell naturally starts to lower, push your hips back to guide the weight between your legs and repeat.
  • Perform all reps, then switch sides.
  • Do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per side. Rest 60 seconds between sets.

 

5. Frog Jumps

Frog jumps are one of those double-duty thigh exercises. They boost power in your hips and thighs, and they also help improve hip mobility.

  • Stand with your feet wider than your shoulders, toes turned out to the sides. Brace your core.
  • Keeping your chest up and back neutral, push your hips back and bend your knees to lower into a deep squat. Reach your fingertips toward the floor between your feet.
  • Drive through your feet to jump up as high as possible, swinging your arms forward and up as you do so.
  • Land softly to immediately lower back down into the squat, and repeat.
  • Do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps. Rest 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

 

6. Pistol Squat

pistol squat dumbbell bench woman

As a unilateral thigh exercise, the pistol squat isolates the muscles in one leg at a time. This forces them to work without the help of their counterparts in your other leg.

  • Stand in front of a sturdy chair, bench, or box (with your back to it), and hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of your chest.
  • Extend your right leg in front of you, with your heel a few inches off the floor.
  • Keeping your chest up and core braced, push your hips back and bend your left knee until your glutes touch the chair.
  • Drive through your left heel to stand back up.
  • Do all reps, then switch sides.
  • Do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per side. Rest 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

 

7. Dumbbell Deadlift

dumbbell deadlift man

The dumbbell deadlift works your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a pair of dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing you. Brace your core.
  • Keeping your back flat, shoulders back, and core braced, push your hips back to let your torso teeter toward the floor and the dumbbells skim down the front of your thighs. Bend your knees slightly.
  • Continue until your torso is almost parallel to the floor and/or you feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings. Keep the dumbbells close to the front of your legs at all times.
  • Pause, then drive through your heels to thrust your hips forward and stand up as tall as possible.
  • Do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps. Rest 30 to 60 seconds between sets.

 

8. Side Lunge

side lunge- thigh workout

The side lunge really stretches your inner thighs, and adding optional weight boosts the strengthening aspect.

  • Stand tall with your feet together and brace your core. You can hold a dumbbell in each hand at your sides.
  • Take a giant step sideways with your right foot, making sure your feet are parallel. Keep your chest up and back flat, push your hips back, and bend your right knee to lower toward that side. Keep your right knee stacked over your right ankle and in line with your second toe. Keep your left leg straight and both feet flat on the ground.
  • Pause, then drive through your right foot to step your feet back together.
  • Do all reps, then repeat on the opposite side.
  • Do 3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per side. Rest 60 seconds between sets.

 

9. Cross-Legged Forward Bend

Start to wind down your thigh workout with this stretch, which targets your hamstrings as well as your iliotibial band (IT band).

  • Stand tall with your feet together and cross your right leg over your left.
  • Hinge forward at your waist, letting your upper body hang in front of your thighs.
  • You should feel a stretch in the back of both legs. To deepen the stretch, grasp your calves or ankles and gently pull your torso closer toward your legs.
  • Hold, release the stretch, then repeat on the opposite side.
  • Do 2 30-second holds per side.

 

10. Standing Quad Stretch

Best Stretching Exercises for Everyday Flexibility

Don’t forget to stretch your quads. If your legs feel shaky after all those thigh exercises, don’t be a hero. Hold onto a chair or the wall for balance.

  • Stand tall with your feet together, and place one or both hands on the chair or wall if needed.
  • Bend your right knee to raise your foot behind you. Grab the top of that foot with your right hand.
  • Keeping the pelvis tucked and both thighs in line with each other, pull the heel toward your glutes until you feel a deep stretch in the front of your thighs.
  • Hold, release the stretch, then repeat on the opposite side.
  • Do 2 30-second holds per side.

About

K. Aleisha Fetters is an experienced nutrition and fitness writer and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. She has written for print and online publications including TIME, Women’s Health, Men’s Health, Runner’s World, SELF, SHAPE, U.S. News & World Report, Weight Watchers, Men’s Fitness, Yahoo! Health, Furthermore by Equinox, Cosmopolitan, Daily Burn, and Girls Gone Strong. Follow her on Twitter.

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