The Best Outer-Thigh Exercises and Cardio Workouts


Build strong-as-hell thighs with these moves and workout strategies

Forget complex weight machines and endless leg lifts. To sculpt strong thighs, you need to move in a new direction, says Violet Zaki, group fitness instructor at Equinox Fitness Club in New York City. Explosive, multidimensional exercises target your entire lower body in one dynamic shot, with a special focus on your outer thighs.

Zaki's outer-thigh exercise routine is a fusion of martial arts, yoga, dance, and strength training that can be done anywhere. For a bonus boost, each of the outer-thigh

exercises demand focus and balance, engaging your core (here’s what that means!) as well as your legs.


How it works: Do two to three sets of this routine three or four times a week and you'll see stronger thighs in four weeks. Now that's a kick.

Equipment needed: None. But if you want to turn up the burn, feel free to hold a pair  o f 5-pound dumbbells during the outer-thigh exercises.

Roundhouse Kick/Squat 

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, knees soft.

Hold fists under chin, palms in and elbows near rib cage, shouldersrelaxed. Pivot 45 degrees to the right.

Extend left leg out to side, pointing toes to thefloor.

Do a roundhouse kick: Lift left knee as high as youcomfortably can, turning outer thigh to face ceiling.

Extend leg, then retract it, keeping toes pointed.

Lower leg and pivot back to start, so toes point forward. Squat down,keeping knees aligned with ankles.

Switch legs and repeat. (BTW, be sure to combinethese outer-thigh exercises with ourbest inner-thigh movesforthe biggest benefits!)

HipExtension with Circles 

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, shoulderblades squeezed together, hands on hips.

Keeping right leg straight, knee soft, lift leftleg behind body, pointing toes, until you feel a contraction in your glutes(don't arch your back).

Draw a four-point clockwise circle with your lefttoes, then repeat the circle counterclockwise.

Do all reps on left leg, then switch sides andrepeat.

Chair Pose+BackLunge 

Stand with legs and feet together.

Push hips back and squat as if you were sittinginto a chair.

Keep knees over ankles, legs pressed together;extend both arms next to ears, keeping head in line with spine.

Hold for 5 counts.

Place hands on hips and step back with right leg into a lunge (see how tonail that lunge form), keeping front knee aligned over ankle.

Hold for 5 counts.

Return to start and repeat from chair pose,switching legs as you lunge.


Stand with feet twice as wide as shoulder-widthapart, toes and knees turned out, heels slightly lifted.

Extend arms out to sides at shoulder height, palmsdown.

Squat down, pushing hips back slightly and keeping knees over ankles.Straighten legs, keeping knees soft and heels lifted;repeat.

Warrior Pose + Tree Pose 

Stand with feet together.

Lunge right leg behind you, turning right foot out 45 degrees. Bend leftknee 90 degrees.

Lift arms out to the sides to shoulder height, palms down. Hold for 5counts, gazing over front hand.

Raise arms overhead and bring palms together, thenlower tochest.

Bring feet together and lift right knee to hipheight, resting right heel on inside of left thigh; place hands on hips.

Hold for 10 slow counts.

Switch legs and repeat from start. 

CurtsySquat+ LateralLift 

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, hands onhips.

Cross right leg behind body and to the left so thatinner thighs touch.

Bend left knee 90 degrees, toes pointing forward,then return to starting position.Raise right leg out to the side as high as you canwithout shifting your hips; keepleft leg straight and knee soft. Return to startingposition; switch sides and repeat.


You can't spot-reduce, but you canfine-tune your fitness plan to build firm muscle in your thighs. Here are threehighly effective solutions from Keli Roberts, personal trainer in Pasadena,California.

1. Kickboxing.Fewother workoutstorch as many calories as a barrage of side, roundhouse, and crescent kicks.Plus, these moves really do double duty as inner- and outer-thigh exercises.Thisno-equipmentcardio kickboxing routinewillmake you feel like a totalbadass.

2. Stair-climbing.Climbing steps—real steps or the Stepmill (rolling staircase)—is a killerway to burn fat and build muscle.Tomaxout the outer-thigh exercisepower,walk two steps at a time and add lunges, squats, anddeadlifts after your climb.

3. StrengthTraining.Build muscle byworking yourthighs from all angleswithseveral types of lunges: front, diagonal, side, and pivoting. Hold a heavy setof dumbbells (enough to make you feel fatigued by the eighth or tenth rep).Tobalance yourupper and lowerleg muscles, do one-legged calf raises. (Related: When to Use Heavy vs. LightWeights)


Make the most of your cardio workouts by turning upthe leg intensity. "Focus onincreasing resistance to work more ofthe leg muscles," Roberts says. Here are four ways to burn calories whilescoring some extra outer-thigh exercise benefits. (P.S.Here’show to get the “afterburn effect” fromyour workout.)

1. Hill Repeats.Find a hill that takes about 2 minutes to sprint up.Warmup for 10to 15minutes,thensprintorspeed-walkup5to10times,walkingdownslowlytolet your heart raterecover.(On the treadmill: Run or walk for 2 minutes at a 9 or 10 percent incline;lower to zero and walk for 3 to 4minutes.)

2. Stair-climbing Intervals.Warmup for 10minutes, then go hard for 1 minute, walking 2 steps at a time or running.Recover for 1 minute at an easy pace. Repeat 5 to 10times.

3.  Extended Climb on a Bike.Eitheron a spin bikeor outdoors, pedal in the saddle with moderate to heavyresistance at 60 to 80 rpm for 15 to 20 minutes. Crank up to 80 to 90 rpm for 2minutes at heavy resistance; recover at an easier resistance for 3 to 4minutes. Do 5 to 8times.

4. In-line Skate Intervals.Find a moderately steep hill that takes about 2 minutes to skate up,sprinting as hard as you can.Turnaroundat the top and carefully skate down. Repeat 5 to 10

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