Exercise for thighs is a common concern a fitness coach gets from their students. To remain clear, the thigh is taken as the upper leg by most people. Before getting into the list, you should know that the best thigh exercises cater to the entire leg including the butt muscles (glutes). No best training or exercise isolates the thigh muscles.
Isolating exercises such as leg lifts, leg extensions, etc. are not considered the best. They are inferior to functional movements in every way while some can prove to be harmful to your knees.
All being said, while reading the following list, if you think of one of these exercises as a butt exercise, you will be right. It works for butt muscles too.
When done right, squats are amazing exercises for your thighs. The thigh muscles (four muscles in front of your upper legs). Quads are one of the prime movers in this motion. There are many variations of this exercise. A few of them are:
- Holding on to something when you do squatting up and down
- Holding dumbbells to get more resistance
- Holding a weighted bar just on your back
2. Step Ups
I’m surprised that step-ups are not performed in gyms more often. They are definitely one of the best exercises for the thighs. And, they are extremely functional and all you have to do is find a step and go to work. When done properly, they are harder than they look. Done in everyday life, we rely heavily on momentum to get us upstairs. But for an exercise, I recommend removing momentum as much as possible and keeping tension on the thigh muscles throughout the exercise until fatigued.
You may need to hold onto something to help you up until your strength improves. The eventual goal should be to hold weights (probably dumbbells) while stepping up.
3. Suspension Lunges
These are utilizing cables attached overhead. There are some brands available in the market. This is the newest exercise to my list simply because exercising with suspension cables is newer than the others.
I like them because, like all suspension exercises, it’s so easy to adjust the intensity. This exercise is good because it allows you to get a greater range of motion at the knees than most any other lunges. The great range of motion allows you to develop other muscle fibers than typical lunges and enhancing the development of the thighs (quads).
Like squats, lunges can be performed in several ways. Unfortunately, the type I see most is the one that I like least: lunging forward and then backward. Lunging forward is fine but lunging backward is something I don’t like. From a coach’s perspective, it places too much strain on your knees. My favorite lunges are:
- Step Back Lunges
- Traveling (walking) lunges
Step back lunges are especially good if you’re learning and/or still developing the strength for other lunges. If necessary, you can start out by holding onto something to assist you. The eventual goal should be to hold weights while performing this exercise.
5. Hamstring Presses on Ball
I don’t think there are any better exercises for the back of the thighs (hamstrings). A variation on this exercise includes performing it with different angles of the knee. If you don’t have an exercise ball, you can do the same exercise on a chair or on a luxury adjustable bench.
In addition to the above-mentioned exercises, I emphasize that if you want leaner legs, these exercises will accomplish that. However, you need to ensure that you do those exercises as a component of a whole-hearted exercise program that focuses on weight loss.
Because in all honesty, the best exercises going around in the world can make your thigh muscles look good. However, they won’t help them look better if there is excess fat on them. So, you need to make sure you have a flawless program that also targets fat loss.