The upper legs are made up of two major muscle groups. The quadriceps, a muscle group consisting of four parts, is located at the front of the upper leg. The hamstrings, made up of the semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris muscles, are located at the back of the thigh. For fast toning of your upper legs, you need regular exercise that targets these muscles.
The Jump Squat Works Both Ways
The jump squat works not only the hamstrings but also the quadriceps, making it an ideal exercise for toning above the knees. Start in a squatting position, feet hip-width apart with your toes pointed slightly outward, and your thighs parallel to the floor. Bend your arms and keep them close to your sides. Jump up, lifting your feet off the floor, then land back in your starting position.
Forward Lunge for Upper Leg Toning
Forward lunges target the hamstrings and quads, as well as the gluteal muscles in your butt. To start, stand straight up with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your hands resting on your hips. Keeping your back straight, lunge forward with one leg until it forms a right angle. Don't extend the knee of your forward leg past the toes of your forward foot. Push up off your heel to return to your starting position. For the next lunge, extend the other leg forward. Continue alternating from one leg to the other as you do repetitions.
Step it Up for Stronger Legs
The dumbbell step-up helps you build stronger legs, and although it targets the quadriceps, it also works the hamstrings, the adductors and the gastrocnemius and soleus muscles in the calves. Start in a standing position in front of a weight bench, arms straight down at your sides with a dumbbell in each hand, and palms facing in. Keeping your back straight, step up onto the bench with one foot, then the other, then return to your starting position ending with your lead foot. Repeat, alternating your lead foot.
Lever Hack Press for Toned Hamstrings
The lever hack press works all of the muscles in your upper legs, as well as the gluteus maximus muscles in the buttocks. Sit on the seat with your back flat against the back pad, your head aligned with your back and your feet flat on the foot pad. Extend your legs so they're straight out as you grasp the levers at the sides. Slowly flex your knees, lowering the seat down as far as you can before pushing yourself back up to your starting position.
The Right Amount of Sets and Reps and Weight
To get the fastest results, you must do the right number of reps and sets, use the right amount of weight and work out at least three times a week. Stick with one to three sets of 12 reps and increase the amount of weight only when you can fully complete this without impairing your form and no longer feel challenged. Increase the amount of weight in only 5 percent to 10 percent increments at a time to avoid taking on too much weight and injuring yourself.
Don't Forget About the Rest
Even though you're focusing on toning and tightening the muscles above your knees, don't forget to include the other major muscle groups of your body in your total workout plan. Otherwise, as the American Council on Exercise warns, you could end up with health issues such as "strength imbalances and postural difficulties."