Whether you’re in decent shape, or you’re just getting started working out, there’s always that one trouble spot you wish was just a little firmer, be it your arms, your stomach, or your thighs. As frustrating as it can be, making progress in those areas starts with transforming your entire body.
“The unfortunate part of weight loss is that you really cannot spot-reduce fatty areas,” Molly Canu, an NASM-certified personal trainer at The Fit Inn in New York City, told POPSUGAR. “You can, however, build muscle where you want, and sometimes that can be the solution to how you feel about a certain area of your body. I often try to encourage my clients to set strength goals that correlate to the areas they are trying to tighten up.”
In other words, while you’re working to reduce fat with a healthy diet and a mix of cardio and strength training, you can target specific muscles that will ultimately help give you the look you want. Here are five exercises Molly recommends to build up the thighs.
“Deadlifts are a killer workout for your posterior chain, which includes your back, your booty, and your hamstrings (the muscles on the back of your thighs),” Molly told POPSUGAR. “I love to teach my clients deadlifts; not only do they firm up the backside of your body, but they use large muscle groups that will help you torch calories during and after your workout.”
Stand holding a medium-sized weight or set of dumbbells in front of your thighs, arms at your sides, with your knees slightly bent.
Keeping your arms straight and your knees bent, slowly hinge forward at your hips.
Lower the weights as far as possible without rounding your back. Keep the weights close to your legs, almost touching them. Look forward instead of at the ground, which can help you keep your back straight.
Squeeze your glutes to slowly pull yourself up, making sure not to use your back or round your spine. Repeat for three sets of 12 reps.
“I am particularly fond of goblet squats because they hit a bunch of lower body muscles at once and that wide stance targets your adductors, the muscles in your inner thigh,” Molly said. “The chest-level weight also encourages you to fire the muscles in your back, helping with poor posture.”
Stand with your feet more than shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell at chest level with both hands.
Push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower yourself toward the ground, until your thighs are parallel with the floor and your elbows touch your knees.
Push through your heels to return to the starting position. Repeat for 15 reps.
Weighted Reverse Lunge
“With reverse lunges, I prefer to do one leg at a time as opposed to alternating if you are looking to build muscle,” Molly said. “Your quads will be working on the controlled step down, and your glutes and hamstring kick in to stand back up.”
Stand with your feet together, with a bar on your shoulders or a dumbbell in each hand, as shown.
Place your weight on your right leg and take a large step behind you. Lunge, lowering yourself toward the ground until both knees are at a 90-degree angle.
Return to standing.
Repeat for 10 to 12 reps, then switch sides.
Side Lunge to Curtsy
“The curtsy lunge targets that ‘side butt’ area of your glutes, and the side lunge kicks in the adductors (the inner thigh), and all the while you still have your quads firing,” Molly said. “Use a kettlebell or dumbbell to keep the reps lower. If the weight feels too easy, you’ll need to do a ton of reps and that can become tedious.”
Hold a 5- to 10-pound weight in your right hand, and lunge to your left, bringing your right hand to your left foot.
Lower your butt as much as possible while sinking back into your heels. Keep your toes pointed forward and your left knee bent no more than 90 degrees.
Push off gently with your left foot, and come into a curtsy position with your left leg crossing behind your right as you press the weight overhead, keeping your hips square and your curtsy tight. That’s one rep.
Repeat by stepping back into the side lunge, and complete three sets of 15 reps on each side.
Sled pushing is another effective way to work those major muscle groups. “Sled pushes come from the lower body,” Molly said. “You should take large steps, stay low, and really use the legs to push the weight.” Try this full-body sled workout, or, if you don’t have a traditional sled, Molly suggests placing a dumbbell or two on a towel and pushing the weight across a wooden floor for about 45 seconds.