While winter sweatpants season is in full swing, there is little need to think about saddlebags, thunder thighs, inner thighs and outer thighs. But when summer comes around, thighs come out from under wraps. The more body-conscious types began thinking thighs as soon as they sang the last verse of “Auld Lang Syne.” When the New Year’s resolution crowd signs up for exercise classes, staffers ask, politely, their main areas of concern.
“Tummies and thighs are a very common response,” says Matt Freeman, fitness manager at the RiverPlex in Peoria, Ill. That’s the group who start getting ready for spring break and swimsuit season as early as January. Andrea Graff, 25, of Atlanta, Ill., is one of them. For anyone else who cares, there is liposuction … and thigh exercises. Here are the thigh exercises Graff's personal trainer, Jeremy Coker, put her through at the RiverPlex. Coker usually has clients do 12 to 15 repetitions of each exercise at least twice a session.
Works: Frontal thigh muscles, hamstrings and gluteals (or butt).
How: Stand with 10-pound weights in each hand, feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Step forward with one foot. Slowly lower the whole body downward in a controlled movement, bending both knees as the body lowers. Keep extended thigh parallel to the ground; don't extend front knee past your toes. Keep back knee straight, keep weight on front heel. Return to standing position without locking the knee and repeat. Switch legs and repeat.
“This is probably one of the better thigh exercises. You’re working all the muscles at the same time,” Coker says. The weights help tone and strengthen muscles.
Lateral leg lifts
Optional: Twelve-pound body bar weight for added resistance.
Works: Outer thighs.
How: Lie on side, head resting on arm or propped up on hand and elbow. Stretch bar from hand to outer side of foot. With back leg slightly bent for balance, slowly lift upper leg to about a 45-degree angle. Slowly lower top leg without touching bottom leg between repetitions. Change sides and repeat.
Coker’s comment: “Keep your leg lined up with your spine. Make it a nice, even motion.”
Another leg lift
Works: Inner thighs.
How: Maintain same position as lateral leg lift. Move body bar between the legs, placing end on top of inner foot. Bend outer leg over bar. Lift inner leg up and down slowly. Change sides and repeat.
Coker’s comment: “The technical term for inner thigh is adductors; the outer thigh is abductors.”
Works: Outer thighs.
How: Put resistance bands around ankles. Standing with knees slightly bent, step out a little past shoulder width with one foot. Return foot to starting position, repeat. Change starting foot and repeat.
Coker’s comment: “This also works the glutes quite a bit.”
Works: Hamstrings and core strength.
How: Lie on back, feet atop big ball. Slowly raise back, bending legs upward while moving ball toward you.
Coker’s comment: “Everybody hates these.”
Graff's comment: “Try it, you’ll see why.”
With appropriate barbell weights.
How: From standing position with knees slightly bent, bend over. Grab bar, keep it close to shins. Lift slowly, but keep back as straight as possible. Holding head high helps keep back flat. Lift bar slowly to standing position. Repeat.
Graff’s comment. “This is my favorite. I feel more of a workout with these than anything.”
Technically, this is called the wall sit, but you can call it a tree sit.
Works: Top of the thigh, or quadriceps.
How: Stand with back against a wall. Slowly bend knees, lowering to a sitting position. Hold as long as you can, anywhere from 30 to 60 seconds. Return to standing position and repeat.