A frequent response is, “I hate my thighs.” In fact, a client I trained many years ago in Beverly Hills once said that while most people carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, she carried it on her thighs. It evidently never occurred to her that her nightly indulgences in wine, cheese and chocolate had something to do with her prominent saddlebags.
So let’s examine this pesky trouble spot. The technical name for the front of the thigh is quadriceps. “Quad” means four – thus, there are four main muscles in the thigh:
- Rectus Femoris – located in the center of the thigh and its main function is to extend the knee and flex the hip.
- Vastus Lateralis – lateral means “side” and its main function is to extend the knee.
- Vastus Intermedius – lies directly under the rectus femoris in the center of the thigh and its function is to extend the knee.
- Vastus Medialis – medial for “middle,” so this is the muscle found in the center of the thigh.
Strong, sculpted thighs not only make your chores easier but also make your clothes fit nicely. The main reason my clients want to work their thighs is to improve their appearances – to look good in shorts and swimsuits. But my goal in working their thighs is to help make them stronger overall. Here are some of my favorite thigh exercises that I teach clients. Please note that if you have any knee problems you may need to modify these to avoid injury.
Sumo Rotational Squat – Think of the Sumo Wrestler stance and you get the picture. You start by standing with your feet spread far apart outside your hips. From there you squat down Sumo-style. Hold and rotate on one leg 180°; hold and rotate back. Repeat 5-10 times and then switch to the opposite leg. For a more advanced move hold a medicine ball during the exercise.
The Squat – A classic move that never gets old, and highly functional too, as it’s replicated constantly in daily activities. Think of the movement getting in and out of a chair and there you have the Squat. Many of us tend to plop in our chairs and that’s one reason our quads get out of shape. Stop the plopping – work those quads. Use the Squat as a refreshing re-boot when your brain starts to lag in the middle of the afternoon at work. Use your office chair, but make sure the rollers are locked or that the chair is stabilized against a wall so that it doesn’t roll away. You can also modify this exercise, squatting against a wall.
Lunge – Another classic exercise that never goes out of style. Lunges can be modified to fit your level of fitness. The deeper the dip, the greater the burn. If you have bad knees, decrease the dip.
Leg Extension – Use the leg extension machine at your gym for 2-3 sets of seated leg extensions. Or, if you have bad knees, use a chair and add a band for resistance. But if you want a boot camp move, add Russian kicks to your workout. Move over, Mikhail Baryshnikov.