The Best Outer-Thigh Cardio Workouts and Exercises

Want to build strong(er) legs? Target your outer thighs with this cardio workout.

Woman in Outer Thigh Cardio Workout Position
Photo: Getty Images

Forget complex weight machines and endless leg lifts: To build strong thighs, you need to move in a new direction, says Violet Zaki, an ACE-certified master trainer and creator of the Jomurai cardio workout. Explosive, multidimensional exercises target your entire lower body in one dynamic shot, with a special focus on your outer thighs.

Need a guide? Check out this outer-thigh exercise routine, which is a fusion of martial arts, yoga, dance, and strength training all in one, that Zaki herself created. For a bonus boost, each of these moves demands focus and balance, engaging your core as well as your legs. Try it for yourself, then read on for tips on how to target your outer thighs at the gym or in your interval training practice.

Outer-Thigh Workout Routine

How it works: Do 2 to 3 sets of this routine three or four times a week and you'll see stronger thighs in four weeks.

You'll need: No equipment is needed, but if you want to turn up the intensity, hold a pair of 5-pound dumbbells during the bodyweight exercises.

woman demonstrating roundhouse kick with squat outer thigh exercise
Peter Ardito

Roundhouse Kick and Squat

A. Stand with feet shoulders-width apart and knees soft. Hold fists under chin, palms in and elbows near ribcage, shoulders relaxed.

B. Pivot 45 degrees to the right and extend left leg out to the side, pointing toes to the floor.

C. Do a roundhouse kick: Lift left knee as high as possible, turning outer thigh to face the ceiling. Extend leg, then retract it, keeping toes pointed.

D. Lower leg and pivot back to start, so toes point forward. Do a squat, keeping knees aligned with ankles.

Switch legs; repeat. Do 15 reps per side.

woman demonstrating leg circles outer thigh exercise

Hip Extension with Circles

A. Stand with feet shoulders-width apart, shoulder blades squeezed together, hands on hips.

B. Keeping right leg straight and knee soft, lift left leg behind body with toes pointed until glutes contract. Do not let back arch.

C. Draw a four-point clockwise circle with left toes, then repeat the circle in the counterclockwise direction.

Do 15 reps. Switch sides; repeat.

woman demonstrating chair pose back lunge outer thigh exercise
Peter Ardito

Chair Pose to Back Lunge

A. Stand with legs and feet together, then push hips back to squat as though sitting in a chair. This is chair pose.

B. Keep knees over ankles and legs pressed together. Extend both arms next to ears, keeping head in line with spine. Hold for 5 counts.

C. Place hands on hips and step back into a lunge with left leg, keeping right knee aligned over ankle. Hold for 5 counts. (

D. Return to chair pose. Switch sides; repeat. Continue alternating.

Do 5 reps per side.

woman demonstrating plie squat outer thigh exercise
Peter Ardito

Plié Squat with Lifted Heels

A. Stand with feet twice as wide as shoulders-width apart, toes and knees turned out, heels slightly lifted.

B. Extend arms out to sides at shoulder height, palms down.

C. Squat down, pushing hips back slightly and keeping knees over ankles.

D. Straighten legs, keeping knees soft and heels lifted; repeat.

Do 15 reps.

woman demonstrating warrior 2 tree pose outer thigh exercise
Peter Ardito

Warrior Pose to Tree Pose

A. Stand with feet together, then lunge left leg behind body, turning left foot out about 45 degrees and bending right knee to 90 degrees.

B. Lift arms out to the sides at shoulders height, palms facedown. Hold this pose for 5 counts while gazing over right hand.

C. Raise arms overhead and bring palms together, then lower to chest.

D. Bring feet together and lift left knee to hip height, resting left heel on inside of left thigh. Place hands on hips. Hold for 10 slow counts.

Switch sides; repeat. Do 5 reps per side.

woman demonstrating curtsy squat lateral lift outer thigh exercise
Peter Ardito

Curtsy Squat to Lateral Lift

A. Stand with feet shoulders-width apart and place hands on hips. Cross right leg behind body and to the left so that inner thighs touch.

B. Bend left knee to 90 degrees, toes pointing forward, then return to starting position.

C. Raise right leg out to the side as high as possible without shifting hips. Keep left leg straight and left knee soft. Return to starting position.

Switch sides; repeat. Do 15 reps per side.

3 Outer-Thigh Gym Exercises

Want to target your outer-thigh muscles at the gym? If you're looking for a cardio workout that will build firm muscles in your thighs, there are certain pieces of equipment you should prioritize. Here are three highly effective solutions from Keli Roberts, an ACE- and AFAA-certified personal trainer in Pasadena, California.


Few other workouts get your heart rate pumping the way a barrage of side, roundhouse, and crescent kicks can. As an added bonus, these moves do double duty as inner- and outer-thigh targeting exercises. So make a beeline for the punching bag — your thighs will thank you later.

Stair Climbing

Climbing steps — whether they're real steps or a stair-climbing machine — is a killer way to build lower-body muscle while getting in your cardio. To max out the outer-thigh exercise power, walk two steps at a time and add lunges, squats, and deadlifts after your climb.

Strength Training

Build muscle by working your thighs from all angles with several types of lunges; front, diagonal, side, and pivoting. For more of a challenge, hold a heavy set of dumbbells with enough weight to make you feel fatigued after 8 or 10 reps. To balance your upper and lower leg muscles, add some one-legged calf raises. (

4 Lower-Body Intensity Boosts

Want to make the most of your cardio workouts? Try turning up the resistance and intensity. "Focus on increasing resistance to work more of the leg muscles," says Roberts. Here are four ways to max out your cardio exercise with intervals, while scoring some extra outer-though exercise benefits.

Hill Repeats

Find a hill that takes about 2 minutes to sprint up. Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes, then sprint or speed-walk up that hill 5 to 10 times, walking down slowly to let your heart rate recover. (On the treadmill: Run or walk for 2 minutes at a 9 or 10 percent incline; lower to zero and walk for 3 to 4 minutes.)

Stair-Climbing Intervals

Warm up for 10 minutes, 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 10 times.

Extended Climb on Bike

Either on a spin bike or outdoors, pedal in the saddle with moderate to heavy resistance at 60 to 80 rpm for 15 to 20 minutes. Crank up to 80 to 90 rpm at a heavy resistance for 2 minutes, then recover at an easier resistance for 3 to 4 minutes. Do these intervals 5 to 10 times.

In-Line Skate Intervals

Find a moderately steep hill that takes about 2 minutes to skate up. Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes, then sprint as hard as you can up the hill. Turn around at the top of the hill and carefully skate down. Repeat 5 to 10 times.

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