Strengthening your outer thighs, or hip abductors, with targeted outer thigh exercises is beneficial; you use them each time you move your legs away from the center of your body. Ice skating and defensive play in football and basketball come to mind.
If you store excess fat in this area — think saddlebags — also perform 150 minutes of moderate cardio or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise per week, as recommended in the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. When your body fat reduces, your toned muscles from your outer thigh workout will be more visible.
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1. Lying Hip Abduction
Lying hip abduction effectively works your hip abductors, which includes your tensor fasciae latae and your glutes.
- Lie on your side on the floor with your legs extended, your hips stacked and your head propped up on your hand.
- Raise your upper leg as high as you can and lower it back down.
- Do this eight to 12 times before switching sides. Complete two to three sets.
If you find it difficult to keep your legs stacked, bend the bottom knee, as demonstrated by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. For an extra challenge, wear ankle weights, or hold a dumbbell on the outside of the working thigh.
2. Standing Hip Abduction
Standing hip abduction works your outer thighs and also challenges your core to stabilize your body.
- Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart.
- Raise one foot off the floor, lift it out to your side up to a 45-degree angle and then return to the starting point.
- After eight to 12 reps, switch sides and repeat the exercise, aiming to finish two to three sets.
For an added challenge, lift your leg against the resistance of an exercise band that's cuffed to the ankle of your working leg, wear ankle weights, or do the exercise while balancing on the unstable surface of a half dome.
3. Seated Hip Abduction
If you have access to a gym, look for the lever machine in which you can do seated hip abductions. This machine can work your outer thighs by offering resistance as you separate your legs, as demonstrated by ExRx.net.
- Sit on the seat of the apparatus with pads against your outer legs.
- After selecting the desired resistance in the weight stack, separate your legs as far apart as you can.
- Slowly move them back to the starting point. Two or three sets of eight to 12 reps can make you feel the burn.
4. Lunges and Squats
Functional, multi-joint exercises are some of the best leg exercises you can do, because in addition to your outer thighs, they also work the other large muscles in your lower body all the way from your buttocks down to your calves. These exercises can include lunges and squats.
Lunges are performed from a split stance, then bending your knees and lowering your hips. When your knees are bent 90 degrees, return to the starting point.
Squats basically mimic the motion you make when sitting on a chair and standing back up. Variations can include side lunges, walking lunges, lunges with one foot on a platform, wall squats, and front and back squats. Perform two to three sets and eight to 12 reps for each exercise.