Top 5 Exercises for Women to Tone the Hips and Thighs

Top 5 Exercises for Women to Tone the Hips and ThighsTop 5 Exercises to Banish Thunder Thighs and get You Those Long Lean Legs You Desire!

I am sure all of you remember the famous Thigh Master peddled by Suzanne Somers; that resistive apparatus one placed between their inner legs and then, squeezed, squeezed, squeezed, their way to shapely hips and thighs! The ultimate goal was to produce lean and toned legs that went “all the way up”! Well, although it might have helped to some extent, you really don’t need any special apparatus to target the giggly bits on either side of your hips. You can get a fabulous workout by doing some simple exercises using only your own body weight with high repetitions.

thigh masterWomen have longed for firmer, and thinner, thighs since the dawn of 80’s spandex (let’s just forget about that butt thong thingy) and the introduction of the long, lean Jane Fonda physique! It is the one area that most women list as their “trouble” spot, and the most requested target area that personal trainers get asked about. The inner thighs, otherwise known as the adductors, and outer thigh, known as the abductors are both highly coveted muscles when it comes to lean, mean, and fitting in your jeans!

Often times, I had been asked to work on “just this area here”, or “only this muscle”; referring to the inner and outer thighs. But let’s get one thing straight right now; these exercises will only tone the muscles, not get rid of the layer of fat over top. There is no such thing as spot reducing!  You need to combine weight training/resistance exercise along with cardio to give those hips the old one-two punch! This way, you will be burning that excess layer of fat throughout your body and also toning the muscles underneath so that your newly defined physique can be easily identified.

By doing these 5 exercises along with the recommended cardio, you will begin to shave off the inches and define those thighs like you read about in “Thigh Times”! What are you waiting for? Let’s get started!

Top 5 Exercises for Women to Tone the Hips and Thighs

For each of these exercises, do 20-30 reps and 1-3 sets depending on your fitness level, your needs, and the amount of time you have. Strength training/resistance exercises like this should be performed 2-3 non-consecutive days per week.

Plié Squat:

Although technically still a “squat” that works just about all of your lower body muscles, because of the wider stance and foot placement you are really targeting the inner thighs with this one. Begin by standing with your feet wider than shoulder width apart; about 3 feet in between. Point your toes outward to the side, as much as it is comfortable. This is a plié stance, as done in ballet. Keeping your back straight and not leaning forward, bend your knees, sit back just a little, and come down into the squat. The plié squat is more of a straight “up and down” movement rather than focusing on pushing the butt back into a seated position like in a regular squat. Make sure your knees are not collapsing inward at any point and that your knees do not come over top of your toes. You should feel this in your inner thighs and glutes big time!

Squat with Leg Lift:

Bring your legs together a little closer now and point the toes forward, coming into the basic squat stance. Bend your knees and push your butt back like you are sitting into a chair. As you come back up, lift the right leg out to the side doing a straight leg lift. Repeat the squat and then lift the left leg in the same way. Continue to alternate in this fashion, or do all of your reps on one side and then switch to the other. Your choice.

Standing Leg Lifts and Squeezes:

You can easily work your inner and outer thighs while standing at the kitchen counter, talking on the telephone, or using a chair for balance. A simple side leg lift can be accomplished by raising one leg out to the side of your body just like you did in the previous exercise, only with no squat. Keeping the foot flexed, lift up until you feel the outer thigh muscle contract. Repeat your reps on one side, and then move to the next, or alternate if you wish. Your inner thighs can be worked by sweeping one leg across the other as if you are kicking a soccer ball. Stand with your right foot slightly in front of your left. From this starting position, sweep the right leg upward across the opposite leg until you feel the inner thigh contract. (Try to remember the soccer ball analogy). Continue to do your reps and then switch sides. You can also change the timing by adding pulses or doing slower squeezes with each sweep.

Floor outer and inner thigh:

Now, let’s have some fun working the thighs on the floor! Along with the basic leg lifts for both the inner and outer thighs, one of the best exercises is one that I mentioned in the Glorious Glutes article; the Clam! I will explain all three exercises here, but please visit the aforementioned article with video link to give you a visual step-by-step tutorial!

Basic Leg Lifts: Laying on your side with your head resting on your arm, bend the bottom leg and keep your top leg straight. Do a leg lift for the outer thigh just as you did while standing. For the inner thigh, you will now bend the top leg to form a bridge that your bottom leg is under. Straighten out your lower leg. Lift the bottom leg up as if you are kicking that soccer ball again, just like when you were standing. This targets the inner thigh.

For the clam, bend both legs and stack them on top of each other. Keeping the feet together, separate the top leg from the bottom by “opening” the clam shell. Do several reps of each of these moves, switching sides when you are done.


Now, I know I mentioned at the beginning of this article that you would not need any special equipment to work your thighs, and you don’t, but just in case you want to move up to the next level and challenge yourself a bit more, here are some options.

Balls and Bands are great to add additional resistance with inner and outer thigh exercises. You can start by placing a small air-filled ball between the legs (right above the knee), squeeze tightly and then release. You should feel this in the inner thighs. Repeat for the desired amount of reps. Using a resistance band is a great addition to either the standing or the floor exercises that I mentioned. Simply tie the ends of the band together forming a loop and place it around your ankles to add resistance to the thigh moves. More resistance equals tighter and more toned thighs! Try it out!

Cardio Fix:

cardio thigh exercisesLower body specific moves that keep the heart rate elevated and your thigh muscles engaged are a double shot for those who want to shred the lower half. Many of you probably won’t remember this fitness craze, but the Reebok slide was (and still is) an incredible thigh-toning cardio workout! Essentially, you slipped little nylon booties over your shoes and stepped onto a sheet of plastic with bumpers on both ends. Pushing off the sides, you “skated” back and forth utilizing your lower body and arms as you pumped from side to side. Any movement that you do laterally works the thighs much more than forward and back movements; this was a great addition to many sports that relied on this movement such as speed skating and ice hockey.

Then, gliding disks became available about 10 years ago. They are small disks that you step on with the ball of your foot that allows your foot to “glide” in any direction. You can achieve a similar workout with these, although you do not have the “stopper” to help you push off and gain momentum. You do, however, have the ability to work within all of the body planes which allows for more functional movement patterns. These workouts can be found on the Internet using both of these modalities or you can purchase exercise DVDs utilizing these methods. Here is one to give you the idea and  get you started.

How to Visually Slim Your Lines: Top 3 Clothing Tips and Tricks

shapewear thigh compression apparelNow, I understand this is a fitness website, but we all know that what we wear plays a huge role in the visual trickery that leads to slimming lines, right!? So, I wanted to touch on a few of those points to help your lower half look even leaner than it will after doing the aforementioned exercises for a few weeks.

Tip 1:

Spend a little money on shapeware! This is the top line of defense against muffin top and bulging thighs! For those of you who may have been living under a rock for the past decade, let me tell you what this is. Shapeware is made of a thick spandex material and comes in many varieties such as shorts, tank tops, or full torso bodysuits. It essentially “sucks” you in to give you smooth lines under any outfit that you are wearing. Shapeware can visually take off several inches and many pounds and can be purchased at any retail store. You don’t need to spend big bucks on “name brands”; check in the lingerie department in any retail store to compare the varieties that are offered.

Tip 2:

Be aware of hemlines and darker colors to lengthen your legs to keep you looking slimmer. Make sure to choose darker jeans or pants with the hem coming to your ankle or 1-2 inches below. This elongates your hips, thighs, and legs. Pairing this tip with a nice heel will give you a further slimming lift!

For skirts, choose a knee-length pencil skirt or an A-line skirt that hits right above the knee. Pairing this with an opaque black legging will create a slim look for any size leg; normally reserved for winter. In the summer, having tan legs will always contribute to a slim line. If you steer clear of the sun, try a spray booth or self-tanning moisturizer to get your fix.

Tip 3:

To create a full-body vertical line, choose both your shirt and pants in dark colors within the same tone, or all of one color; namely, black. This is something you have probably heard a million times, but that is because it truly works! Just make sure you also keep the clothes crisp and tailored to your specific body dimensions. The best thing you can do is to spend a few extra dollars getting your clothes tailored so they fit you perfectly; there is nothing worse than clothing that is ill-fitting and looks a little “off” because the hem is too long or the waist is baggy. Having clothes that are in one tone, but also fit you well, keeps that line looking slim!

The Bottom Line

All women want to clean up the problem areas on the body, and the hips and thighs are one of those areas that seem to be the toughest to tame. By doing a few muscle-specific exercises on your own, using cardio that targets the lower body, and finally, dressing your way down a few sizes, you will look lean and mean in your skinny jeans! And like Suzanne Somers said, “We may not have been born with great legs, but now we can look like we were!”


Author Profile: Heather Preston

Heather is certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a Personal Trainer, is a certified Wellness Coach through WellCoaches, and is a NCHEC Health Education Specialist.She also holds a Master’s Degree in Health Education/Promotion and a B.A. in Health Care Studies. Her mission is to make wellness seem “doable” for everyone, regardless of fitness level or hectic schedule. Find out more about Heather by visiting:

Disclaimer: The views of the author are his or her own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Ask The Trainer.
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