Mind the gap! 7 exercises for stronger, leaner thighs today

Listen up, we're not saying a thigh gap is a good thing, but hey, who wouldn't want stronger, leaner, longer thighs? Hands up if you're with us on this one! We thought so. Luckily, there are plenty of great moves out there than can give you the thighs dreams are made of (or something like that), whether you want to crush a man to death - definitely not something we'd recommend - or just want to look great in your shorts this summer. Guys, this applies to you too, so pay attention!

These 7 moves will tone, strengthen and lengthen those often-neglected thigh muscles that waste away as you sit typing at your office desk day after day. We're not saying this won't be a challenge, but adding some of these moves to your regular workouts will make all the difference when it comes to having thighs to be proud of!

#1. Ball Squat

The ultimate exercise for thighs of steel, using an exercise ball adds a new dimension to your squat.

Place the exercise ball between the curve of your lower back and the wall. You should be standing with feet about shoulder-width apart. Then bend your knees and slowly lower yourself about 5 to 10 inches, keeping your shoulders level as you do so. Hold this for 3 seconds then stand back up. We recommend starting with two sets of 5 reps, with a 30-second rest in between sets. As your thighs get stronger, you can build your way up to 12 reps!

#2. Single-leg Circle

Don't be fooled by how easy this popular Pilates move sounds - it strengthens the thigh muscles and can help tone the butt too!

Lie on a towel or mat, arms by your side and palms facing down. Now raise your left leg and point your toes towards the ceiling - as you do so rotate your leg slightly outwards. Draw the outline of a circle on the ceiling with your lef, moving the leg as you keep your hips still and in contact with the floor. Draw this circle on the ceiling 5 times in a clockwise direction with your left leg, then repeat, moving anti-clockwise. Then switch legs.

#3. Dumbbell Lunges

For a fantastic knee stretch (ooh, that feels good!) that also lets you feel the burn in your thigh muscles, grab yourself some dumbbells and get lunging!

Standing with your feet hip-width apart, lunge forward with your left leg then straighten your leg. Your right knee should lower until it's about an inch above the ground. Keeping your torso perpendicular to the floor, ensure your front knee is aligned over your front ankle. Your weight should be on your heels, not your toes. Continue these lunges for 30 seconds then switch legs.

#4. Toe Squat/Overhead Reach

We love this move which not only strengthens your thighs but targets those hard-to-reach glutes too. Press your knees firmly together and imagine you're holding something valuable or breakable between them - a kitten perhaps, or a glass vase!

Begin in a chair pose with your core engaged, your hips lowered into a half squat position and your inner knees and ankles touching. Raise the dumbbells (one in each hand) over your head. Lift yourself up onto the balls of your feet and slowly lower then lift your butt by about 4 inches. Repeat this 8 to 12 times, keeping your movements very slow and controlled.

#5. Plie

Want to tighten and tone the backs of your thighs whilst firming up that butt? Try this - we guarantee it works!

Standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, point your toes out. Now bring your arms straight out in front of you as you lower into a squat, then come back up and repeat. This time, go as low as you can - tuck your tailbone under and keep your glutes contracted. Your knees shouldn't move past your toes and your torso should remain tall. Carry on for 1 minute. To add an extra challenge, pulse at the bottom of your squat for 20 seconds.

#6. Pick-Up Squat

This move stretches out the front of your thighs nicely, great after some of the other moves or if you've been for a run.

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand, arms down at your sides. Now bend your knees 90 degrees and keep your chest lifted as you place the dumbbells down by your feet. Stand up straight then squat down again, picking up the dumbbells as you do so. Repeat for 1 minute, alternating lowering weights and picking them up.

#7. Thigh Kick Stretch

Add this move to your workout a few times a week and suddenly no shorts will seem too small this summer - this is the way to get seriously toned, strong thighs! You'll need a chair for this move, which can be done at home or even at the office if you can squeeze in a quick lunchtime workout.

Stand holding the back of the chair and press your shoulder blades back and down. Lift your weight up onto the ball of your left foot and lift your right leg. Keeping your core muscles pulled in, bring your right leg across your body, in front of your left leg. Now, swing your leg back out to the right - keep your toes turned out and flexed and both hips facing forward as you do so. Aim for 10 reps, then switch legs and repeat for 10 more reps. Take a 30-second rest then complete a second set.

For thighs a championship wrestler would be proud of (we're talking strength here, not muscle bulk!) add some or all of these moves to your workout at least once a week. Let us know how you get on - we always love to hear about your results!

READ THIS NEXT: 10 Exercises for lean legs

Author By Paula Beaton
Date On 5th May 2015 at 13:22

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