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8 Thigh Exercises to Sculpt Your Legs

Woman doing a leg slide exercise.

When it comes to designing a good leg day, it’s not all about the squats. There are plenty of other complementing moves you can do to strengthen, enhance, tone, and improve the look of your leg muscles. Here are some of the best thigh exercises to sculpt your legs.


Start by standing in front of a bench, box, or another sturdy and elevated surface and focus on a good foundation. Feel your feet firmly in the ground and engage your core muscles. You can choose to grab a set of dumbbells (or even just one) or only use your body weight, it’s up to you and how much you actually want to challenge yourself.

Keep in mind that step-ups are a bit challenging for your balance so if you’re not sure of how stable you are, omit the added weights in the beginning and add them later if you feel strong and safe. Take an inhale and step with your right foot on the bench, driving from the heel and pushing yourself up so your other foot follows. Without dropping the foot down, slowly step back to the floor.

You can repeat this move 10-12 times and simply focus on the glute and thigh of your right leg as you push up. If you need more stability, you can always tap your left foot once it comes up, and if you need a bigger challenge, as you step up, drive the left knee up toward your chest. Repeat the same thing with the other leg.

Plyometric boxes for workouts

Challenge your workout with these fitness tools.

Single Leg Deadlifts

Grab a dumbbell or a kettlebell with your left hand and come to a standing position, feet six inches apart. Activate your core and lift your left leg up, bending at the knee. Inhale and slowly bend forward, bringing the dumbbell as close to the floor as possible. Exhale and lift up, keeping your spine straight and squeezing your glute at the top.

Keep your right leg straight or slightly bent but don’t lock out your knees. Ensure your core is engaged throughout the entire exercise as single-leg deadlifts can be really hard on your lower back and challenging for your balance. As you come back up, bring your left foot to tap, re-center, and repeat the movement again. Go for 10-12 repetitions before switching your legs.


Spice up your workouts by adding a bit of extra weight.

Single Leg Bridges

Start by lying on your back and bend your knees, placing your feet firmly on the floor. Keep your legs separated at a hip-width distance and activate your core. Inhale and lift your hips up, digging your heels into the floor. Lift your left leg straight into the air and begin lowering and lifting your hips while keeping the left leg up. Breathe through each move and really squeeze your glute at the top, focusing on that part of your thigh that ties into the glute. Go for 10-12 repetitions and do the same thing on the other side.

You can challenge yourself even more by adding resistance bands around your thighs or even a dumbbell you can place on the top of your hips for added weight.

Resistance bands for leg day

Challenge your squats with these heavy load resistance bands.

Curtsy Lunges

Start in a standing position with your feet six inches apart. You can choose to use resistance bands, a set of dumbbells, or none of the above and use only your body weight. Take an inhale and step diagonally back with your right leg, lowering into a lunge with your left at the same time. You will feel this on your outer thighs and glute, really targeting those areas that bigger movements often don’t.

Exhale and step back to the center, using the ball of your right foot as a kick-off point, feeling it in your glute and thigh. You can repeat the same move 10-12 times on the same leg or alternate between left and right. The faster you go, the more cardiovascular the exercise becomes, but if you add a bit heavier weights, focus on the movement and don’t rush it.


Increase your weight in the gym and feel your muscles getting stronger with each rep.

Lunge Kicks

Start in a deep lunge, right leg in front and left back. Aim for a 90-degree angle so your thigh is as parallel to the floor as possible. This will ensure that both your hamstring and quadriceps get involved in the exercise. Take a big inhale and on the exhale kick back. Feel the weight shift forward but try to resist getting up from your position. The lower you stay, the greater the burn.

Repeat 15-20 times before doing the same with your other leg. This exercise is also challenging for your balance so don’t be surprised if you start feeling wobbly after half of your reps. Just remember to keep your core as active as possible and engage your glutes.

Running and training shoe

Give your feet the stability they need.

Hip Adductors

Start by lying on your side and bending your knees. Keep your feet together and on your inhale, lift your hips. Stay here, engage your core, and start opening and closing your legs, focusing on squeezing your muscles on your exhale. Really feel the outer thigh working as you work hard to maintain your balance. Go for 10-12 reps on each side.

If you want to make this exercise a bit more challenging, add a resistance band between your thighs and make your thighs work harder to reach the full expression of the move.

Thigh master

This thigh master will improve any leg day.

Lying Leg Lifts

Start by lying on your side and bring your legs together, one on top of the other. Flex your feet to fully engage your legs and on your inhale, lift your upper leg straight up. Keep everything engaged, squeeze at the top, and then bring the leg back down. Continue for 15-20 reps and then do the same on the other side.

You can make this exercise more challenging by adding a resistance band or a pilates ring, or even grab a dumbbell and place it on top of your upper thigh before you start lifting your leg.

Pilates ring

This Pilates ring is fun and versatile.

Leg Sliders

Engaging your thigh muscles doesn’t even need to include anything specific other than your own body weight. Start in a standing position, feet together. Bend your knees slightly and on your inhale, slide your right leg out, dragging it on the floor like there’s a paper you need to push. Exhale and slide the leg all the way back to the center, feeling your inner thighs do the work. Repeat 10-12 times and do the same thing on the other side.

Once again, you can make this a bit harder by looping a resistance band around your thighs, placing an ab slider on the floor, or even just using a towel.

Gaiam Core Sliding Discs

Engage your core, legs, and arms with these awesome sliders.

These leg exercises will really make your thighs burn, but don’t forget to stretch after you’re done!

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »
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