02/10/2012 07:54 am ET | Updated Apr 10, 2012

3 Steps to Stronger Thighs

If there's one part of the body that my clients most often complain about, it's the thighs. They can be too skinny, too thick, too soft, too weak or too baggy. So whether you want to improve tone, add strength or simply look great in your jeans, this article is for you.

What Are Thighs?

The thighs are made up of four different muscle groups:

  • The quadriceps are made up of four primary muscles, and are on the front of your thighs

  • The hamstrings are made of three primary muscles, and are on the back of the thighs
  • The adductors are made up of two primary muscles and are on the inner thighs
  • The abductors are made up of two primary muscles and are on the outer thighs and butt
  • As you may have guessed, the best thigh workout targets each of these muscle groups.

    Whenever you are seriously attempting to make one specific body part look better, it's best to do two workouts per week that mainly focus on that muscle group. This is because a muscle group will take about three to four days to recover from a hard workout. So if you do weight training for your thighs every day, you can overtrain them, be constantly sore, get subpar results and feel very, very uncomfortable walking up stairs.

    What Are the Best Exercises for Your Thighs?

    Quadriceps: Squats, lunges, leg extension machine, cable kickforwards, bike riding

    Hamstrings: Deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, leg curl machine, stability ball leg curls, cable kickbackwards, treadmill incline walking

    Adductors: Lateral lunges, cable inner leg kicks, side planks with leg raises

    Abductors: Lateral lunges, cable outer leg kicks, side to side elastic band shuffles

    Visit the Ben Greenfield Fitness YouTube channel for easy demonstrations of all these exercises.

    What NOT to Do

    You may have noticed that the inner thigh (abductor) machine and outer thigh (adductor) machine were not included in the list of exercises above. Your inner and outer thigh muscles are not functionally designed to move against resistance while in that seated position, so using these machines can actually cause injury. Plus, it's my pet peeve to see ladies at the gym talking on the phone while Suzanne Somersing in these useless contraptions.

    3 Steps to Fit Thighs

    Step 1: Warm up on a bike with five minutes of easy pedaling, followed by five 30-second hard pedaling efforts with 30 seconds of rest between each.

    Step 2: Do the following exercise circuit three to six times through, with 10-15 repetitions of each exercise and minimal rest in between:

    1. Squats or lunges

  • Deadlifts or Romanian deadlifts
  • Leg curl machine
  • Leg extension machine
  • Cable inner leg raises
  • Cable outer leg raises
  • Lateral lunges
  • Step 3: Finish by walking up a treadmill at the steepest possible incline for five minutes.

    If you find yourself unable to do an exercise with good form, then take a break, go do some core or upper body work, then get back into the circuit when your legs are ready to keep going.

    Do this workout twice a week, with each workout separated by at least three days. Within four to six weeks, you'll be looking at a completely different set of thighs in the mirror and smiling at what you see!

    Finally, remember that no amount of work for the thighs will make them look better if they are covered with a layer of fat. So be sure to also read my article, "How to Tone and Lose Fat in One Body Part."

    For more by Ben Greenfield, click here.

    For more on fitness, click here.

    Ben Greenfield is a fitness and triathlon expert and host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast on the Quick and Dirty Tips network. His book, Get-Fit Guy's Guide to Achieving Your Ideal Body -- A Workout Plan for Your Unique Shape, will be published by St. Martin's Press in May 2012.

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