10 Thigh Workout Moves for a Stronger Lower Body

Side lunge
Photo: undrey/Getty

These thigh-slimming exercises will work every angle of your lower body to build super strong legs — and all you need is your bodyweight.

01 of 11

The Ultimate Thigh-Slimming Exercises

thigh-slimming exercise jump lunge
Peter Ardito

So you want to know how to get thinner thighs or leaner legs? Here's the thing: You can't spot-reduce fat or target-tone certain areas of your body. That's just not how weight loss works. You can, however, develop the muscles in your legs to appear more firm, "toned," and, most importantly, to feel strong and capable. As a result, you may score the appearance of thinner thighs. (Don't believe it? Check out these body transformations from lifting weights.)

This circuit of thigh-slimming exercises created by trainer and fitness expert Jessica Smith will help strengthen your whole lower body — especially your quads, hamstrings, abductors, and adductors (or the front, back, outside, and inside of your thighs, respectively).

How it works: Do 15 reps of each move back-to-back without rest, up to four days a week. Be sure to couple your lower-body and thigh-slimming workouts with cardio exercise, a healthy diet, and other strength workouts to make the most of these thigh-slimming exercises.

Equipment needed: None. You can do all these moves with just your bodyweight. Want to boost your burn? Try adding a set of 5- to 10-pound dumbbells (free weights have tons of benefits!) to some of the strength moves for an added challenge.

02 of 11

Side Lunge to Crossover Tap

side lunge crossover leg workout routine thigh-slimming exercise
Peter Ardito

Target your upper legs from every angle with this thigh-slimming exercise designed to hit your inner thighs, quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

A. Stand with feet together, arms down by sides.

B. Take a wide step to the side with left foot (right leg should stay extended), and bend left knee, pushing hips behind body.

C. Keep back flat, eyes looking straight ahead, and reach both arms on either side of left foot, touching the ground with fingertips.

D. Push off the left leg and shift weight back into the right foot, reaching both arms up to the ceiling while bringing left leg across the front of body and tap left toes on the floor, just past right leg. That's one rep.

Do 15 reps on each leg.

Form Tip: Focus on squeezing your inner-thigh muscles and drawing your abs in tight on the crossover tap to help with balance and control during this thigh-slimming workout move.

03 of 11

Runner's Lunge to Balance

runner's lunge to balance thin thigh slimming exercise
Peter Ardito

This deep lunge and balance combo will help strengthen thighs and improve your balance. (

A. Stand with feet together.

B. Take a big step forward with right leg.

C. Reaching towards right foot with both hands and hinging slightly forward from hips, bend both knees into a low lunge (be sure to keep right knee lined up over right ankle at the bottom of lunge. Don't let knee extend past your toes). Left knee should be pointed straight down to the floor (like a sprinter about to start running).

D. Next, press weight into right leg and push down through right foot, standing up out of the lunge, lifting left leg off the floor and straight up behind hip. Upper body should maintain the hinged forward position while standing, with back straight, abs tight.

E. Balance for one count and then lower back down into the lunge. If it's too hard to stand on one leg, try tapping left foot lightly on the floor behind body while standing up out of the lunge.

Do 15 reps per side.

Form Tip: As you stand out of the lunge position, focus on one point on the floor in front of you. This will help you balance at the top of the move.

04 of 11

Scissor Power Switch

scissor power lunge thigh-slimming exercise
Peter Ardito

This thigh-slimming exercise helps burn more calories while you work the power (fast-twitch) muscle fibers in your legs — a killer combo for trimmer thighs.

A. Stand with right foot forward, left leg back and lower into a runner's lunge, reaching left arm towards right foot and extending right arm behind body.

B. Push off the floor with both feet, jumping straight up, scissoring legs midair, and land back into a runner's lunge with left leg forward, right arm reaching across. If an injury prevents you from jumping, try quickly alternating legs with a rear tap instead of the jump.

Do 15 reps per side.

Form Tip: Start slow to ensure proper form on your landing (always keep your knees behind your toes on the front leg of your lunge). Progress into a faster speed for this thigh-slimming exercise when you're ready to advance.

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Diagonal Lunge

thigh slimming exercise diagonal lunge
Peter Ardito

This multi-directional lunge (see how to ace perfect lunge form) helps build coordination and control while also toning and tightening your quads, glutes, hamstrings, and inner thighs.

A. Stand with feet together, both arms reaching overhead, palms facing forward.

B. Take a wide step with right foot out to the corner of the room (at a 45-degree diagonal angle), bending right knee and reaching arms and upper body forward over right thigh (back leg should be straight, with heel lifted off the floor).

C. Try to touch the floor, on either side of right foot, lightly with your fingertips.

D. Push off of the right foot to return to the starting position.

Do 15 reps per side.

Form Tip: As you stand back out of your lunge, focus on drawing your abs in tight, squeezing your inner thighs together, and maintaining good posture.

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Plié Slides

best thigh slimming exercise plie slide
Peter Ardito

This ballet-inspired thigh-slimming exercise targets both the inner and outer legs.

A. Stand with hands on hips, heels pressed together and toes rotated out to the sides (about 45 degrees).

B. Step left foot out (wider than hip-width apart), into a deep "plié": bend both knees out over toes, lowering body straight down to the floor, keeping back straight and abs in tight.

C. Next, as you rise up out of the plié, slide left heel back in towards right, straightening legs and returning to start position.

Do 15 reps per side.

Form Tip: Make sure your knees stay lined up over your toes on the plié, don't let them roll in during this thigh-slimming workout move.

07 of 11

Lateral Plyo Squats

lateral plyo squat thinner thigh exercise
Peter Ardito

This quick plyometric (plyo) interval will get your heart pumping and tone your hips, thighs, and glutes. (BTW: here's everything you need to know plyometric, aka jump-style training.)

A. Stand with feet together, arms down by sides.

B. Step right foot out to the side (about hip-width apart) and bend knees, holding both arms in front of body, sitting back into a squat. Press hips behind body (as if reaching back for a chair) and keep chest lifted and eyes forward.

C. Quickly push off the floor with both feet, jumping up and to the left. Land with left foot stepping out to the side and back into squat position. (Modification option: Instead of jumping, simply stay down in squat position and step feet quickly from side to side to raise your heart rate without the impact.)

Do 15 reps.

Form Tip: Use your arms to get your momentum going and to help you push off the ground during this thigh-slimming exercise.

08 of 11

Kneeling Roundhouse Kick

kneeling roundhouse kick thigh slimming exercise
Peter Ardito

This kickboxing-inspired thigh-slimming exercise is a terrific way to hit your outer hips too. (

A. Start kneeling on all fours (on carpet or a mat) with arms extended under shoulders and knees bent under hips.

B. Lift left knee off the floor, bending left heel in closer to body.

C. Next, lift left knee (keeping it bent) straight out to the side of body, trying to bring it up to hip height.

D. Extend leg straight out, pointing toe, shin, and shoelaces facing forward.

E. Bend knee back in and lower it down, almost to the floor (but not touching).

Do 15 reps per side.

Form Tip: Draw your abs in tight and try not to lean away from your legs as you lift it into your kick — press both arms strong into the floor, keeping hips square.

09 of 11

Hip Extension and Cross

hip extension cross thinner thigh exercise
Peter Ardito

Condition the backs of your thighs, glutes, and get a bonus core workout with this targeted isolation exercise.

A. Start kneeling and bend both elbows down to the floor below shoulders, hands clasped.

B. Extend left leg up and behind body, pointing toes as the leg extends.

C. Bend left knee and draw left leg in, lightly tapping the back of right knee with left kneecap.

D. Extend left leg back out.

Do 15 reps per side.

Form Tip: Press both arms down into the floor to avoid collapsing into your chest, and keep your abs drawn in tight so that your lower back doesn't sag while doing this leg-slimming exercise.

10 of 11

Plank to Stand Up

plank to stand up thigh slimming exercise
Peter Ardito

This tough thigh-slimming exercise improves flexibility in your hamstrings and hips while also toning your core, legs, and back.

A. Start at the top of a push-up position or a high plank.

B. Keeping abs drawn in tight, step right foot in between hands, bending knee so that right thigh is parallel to the floor, keeping back leg extended.

C. Push weight into right foot while slowly standing up out of the lunge, leaning slightly forward with upper body, and tap left foot on the floor behind body at the top.

D. Bend right knee and lunge back down to the floor, placing hands flat on either side of right foot. Step right leg back to plank position and then repeat with the left leg.

Do 15 reps per side.

Form Tip: If it's too difficult to stand up with your hands on the ground, place your hands on top of your front thigh for more support. Do the same on the way back down during this thigh-slimming worklout move.

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Prone Hamstring Curl

prone hamstring curl thigh slimming exercise
Peter Ardito

This thigh-slimming exercise shapes up the hamstrings and lifts that hard-to-reach spot where the glutes and hamstrings meet. (

A. Lie face down on the floor, bend elbows and stack hands under forehead.

B. Extend both legs straight out behind body, pointing toes and squeezing heels together.

C. Press shoulders down and lift both legs slightly off the floor.

D. Keeping feet touching, bend knees (knees can open out to the sides slightly as they bend) and curl both heels in towards body.

E. Without letting knees touch the ground, slowly extend both legs back out straight.

Do 15 reps.

Form Tip: Be sure to keep your kneecaps lifted off the floor during the full movement, and imagine you're pressing your heels into something as you bend your knees in to really squeeze the backs of your thighs.

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