October 6, 2021

Thigh Exercises for Long, Lean Muscles

Thigh Exercises are very important in order to maintaining thigh strength. Your thigh strength is a sign of your overall fitness and functionality. The thighs are one of the most important muscle groups in the body. They create balance and harmony throughout the body. They will be easier to move in the years ahead if we do more.

Lauren Sambataro, NASM-certified MYXFitness instructor, explains the anatomy.

No expensive equipment is required to get the best results for your thighs. Many thigh exercises can actually be done with your body weight, a dumbbell or creatively using objects from the home.

Are you unsure where to begin? For six thigh exercises that you can do in your next workout, read on.


  • Lauren Sambataro, a NASM-certified MYXfitness instructor, is available.
  • Jenna Kilgore MS is a NASM-CPT and FNS coach.

Safety and Precautions for Thigh Exercises

Thigh exercises can be safely performed if done correctly. However, they are not recommended if you have injuries to your lower back, shins or calves. Dynamic warming up your body is important before you begin any exercise to reduce tightness and make sure that the muscles and joints are flexible enough to perform the work out without straining.


Spot treating is a method that can be used to improve the appearance of one area of the body, such as the thighs. There has been much debate about this topic. However, this is not a proven method. Science points to cardio, such as high-intensity interval exercise, to lose fat and build muscle.

Another misconception is that you can’t build muscle if your genes are predisposed to having “skinny” legs. It is possible to build strength in your lower body, even though it may be more difficult. A tailored lifting program can help you do this.

Benefits of Thigh Exercises

Thigh muscles are responsible for the leg’s functionality. Jenna Kilgore, Noom coach, says that the quads and hamstrings allow the leg to bend/flex and stretch and the adductors pull it together. The efficiency of our daily movement depends on the effectiveness of our thighs. Over-working certain muscles can lead to imbalances between the left and right sides of your body. Sambataro warns that quad dominant people are most common. It is important to not forget the hamstrings. Multi-joint exercises are better than isolation exercises for integrating the thigh muscles. This will keep us strong and stable, as well as prevent injury.

Kilgore, speaking of injury prevention, mentions the decreased likelihood of “injury/or fall risk” and easier rehabilitation for existing injuries if our thighs work equally. Sambataro adds: “It is important not to isolate thigh muscles because they work together on joints and bones and also as a team for flexing, extending, and rotating the legs.”

6 Thigh Exercises to Try

Multi-Directional Lunge


The multi-directional lunge targets all muscles in the thigh. It improves mobility and agility.

  • Start with your right foot planted. Walk or step back using the left foot.
  • Place your head forward, eyes open and your pelvis to the front.
  • To return to the original position, sink your body into a lunge and then push on the front heel.
  • Next, move your left foot sideways and do a lateral lunge. Keep your right leg straight. Push through the right heel so you can return to the center.
  • Now, move your left leg forward and then sink into a lunge.
  • To work your quads and inner thighs, cross your left leg over the right.
  • Switch legs, then complete the opposite side.

Sumo Squat Rotation


Sumo squat rotations are a great exercise to increase flexibility and work the inner thighs.

  • Place your feet slightly wider than your hips apart, and then turn your feet outward, externally rotating you hips.
  • Keep your hands on your hips or at your chest, and squat down.
  • Internally rotate one leg so that you can reach a lunge position. Then, return to the center.
  • Alternate sides.

Eccentric Jump Squats


The eccentric (lowering) phase is where you lengthen and load the muscles in your thigh. Finally, you can add a plyometric element for more power.

  • Keep your spine neutral and slowly lower your hips into a squat. Do this for three counts, making sure your knees don’t touch the ground.
  • Sink to the bottom of your squat.
  • Push your heels into your heels, and then squeeze your glutes to propel yourself into the air. Land softly and controllably and you will land in a squat.
  • Continue with three counts of slow motion, then one count faster.

Narrow Stance Pulse Squat


This exercise is very similar to a regular back-squat. However, your feet should not be more than shoulder width apart in order to target quads and adductor muscles.

  • Keep your feet in a narrow position. Lower into a squat as if you’re going to sit on a chair. Pause where it is comfortable.
  • You should pulse up and down for a few seconds, but not more than halfway.
  • Keep pulsing for several rounds, then return to the starting position.

Kickstand Romanian Deadlift


To increase power and decrease body strength, this exercise targets the posterior chain, specifically the adductors and hamstrings.

  • With your right leg in front and most of your weight on the foot, stand in a staggered position. Although the rear leg serves as support, it shouldn’t be carrying too much weight.
  • Use your body weight, or a dumbbell/kettlebell. Hinge at the hips while maintaining a neutral spine. Reach towards the floor.
  • As you lift your spine up, squeeze your glutes. The hamstring should feel the movement.
  • Continue for 8-12 times and then switch legs.

Shoulder Bridge and Squeeze


This classic Pilates move engages your core and stabilizes the shoulders. The inner thighs will be engaged by adding a squeeze to this movement.

  • To engage your inner thighs, lie on your back, with your feet flat on the ground.
  • Push your heels to a bridge position and squeeze your glutes.
  • Keep this position and squeeze the ball between your knees for 10-20 seconds.
  • For a few more rounds, lower your back and continue to do so.