Thunder Down Under: The Best Exercises for Toned Thighs

Woman with strong thighs stretching on the beach

Ok, we’re gonna hit ya below the belt. But not in a way that hurts! We’re talking about toning those beautiful muscles you’ve got sitting at the top of your legs – the thighs! The thighs are really the steam engine of your lower half. Sure the booty holds a lot of explosive power, and your calves aren’t too shabby at getting you moving. But those thigh muscles are where the real action is. 

The thighs are made up of five muscle groups: the adductors, hamstrings, pectineus, quadriceps, and sartorius — some of the largest muscles in your body. These beauties help your lower half bend, flex, rotate, and more. They also bear most of your body weight, keep your hips and lower legs aligned, and help you stay balanced. And did we forget, the thighs are scientifically proven to be one of the sexiest parts of the body. And we trust the science. 

So with that said, why don’t we take a little ramble down south of the border, to the thunder from down under, with the best thigh workout for sculpted, toned, swole, and shredded gams. These inner and outer thigh exercises can be done with just a few pieces of equipment, or even using your own bodyweight. So sit back, clench up, and let’s get to work. 

Glute Bridges

Man performing a glute bridge at home

Equipment Needed: None required, resistance band optional

Glute bridges are a great way to burn those hamstrings up, while also hitting the glutes and transverse abdominus. To do these, lay flat on a yoga mat or soft surface, with your knees bent at a near 45-degree angle and your feet flat on the floor. Thrust your midsection upwards, aligning your lower back, butt, and upper legs. Come back down slowly and repeat. Try three sets of 15. Resistance bands aren’t necessary, but add some nice tension on the entire region. 


Woman outdoors doing step-ups on a park bench

Equipment Needed: Bench, steps, or other elevated flat surface. 

Our next thigh muscle exercise is the seemingly humble step up. As simple as it sounds, this exercise just involves stepping up on a heightened level, and bringing your knee up when you reach the top. This one is a great all-around conditioning exercise, and targets your quads, sartorius, hams, and more. If you’re looking for some cardio in the mix, be sure to do these a bit faster with additional reps in each set. Try three sets of 12 on each side. 

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Lateral Step-Out Squat

Man with ponytail doing a step-out squat with a resistance band

Equipment Needed: None required, resistance band optional

For our next amazing thigh exercise, we turn to the first of many squat variations. The resistance band is key on this one because it adds resistance to your outer thighs. Start by standing tall with your legs hip-width apart. Next, step your right foot out into a wide stance, sinking your hips down and back while keeping your knees wide and chest lifted. Step back to the starting position, and repeat on the opposite side.

For an added burn you can do 10 on one side, then 10 on the other instead of alternating sides. And you can even benefit from doing this move without the band if you don’t have one. Try four sets of 10 repetitions on this one. 

Goblet Squat

Fit young woman performing a goblet squat with a kettlebell

Equipment Needed: Kettlebell or dumbbell.

The famed goblet squat is a wonderful thigh workout that’s perfect for newbies and experts alike, and the high position of the kettlebell puts less strain on your back and helps to guide your form. Stand a little wider than hip-width apart and turn the toes out slightly. Squat as low as you can (stop if your knees feel any pain) keeping the knees lined up with your toes while holding the weight slightly in front of you, which also acts as a counterbalance for the rest of your body. Doing so generally allows you to sink down deeper than you otherwise would with different squat techniques. This movement targets the quads, hams, glutes, and even the calves. Try it with no weight or a light weight to start. You can either try three sets of five with heavier weights if you’re searching for strength or three sets of 12 working with lower weights. 

Bulgarian Split Squat

Man in black tank top doing a Bulgarian split squat in a gym

Equipment Needed: Bench, plyo box, or other elevated flat surface. 

Next in our thigh workout routine hails all the way from the heart of eastern Europe. The Bulgarian split squat absolutely shreds your quads, adductors, hamstrings, pectineus, and glutes. We promise you, do this right, and you will feel it every step of the way. Start standing in front of a workout bench, plyo box, or other raised surface that’s about knee height. Feel free to practice these on a lower riser; even a curb or stair step are great options. Lower your back knee slowly, careful to keep your front knee behind the front of your toes. These can get pretty tough, especially if you’d like to add a dumbbell to the mix, so stick to three sets of 8 reps. 

Russian Kettlebell Swing

Woman in a gym performing a kettlebell swing

Equipment Needed: Kettlebell or dumbbell.

Rounding out the best thigh workout has got to be one of our favorite compound exercises in the biz, the mighty kettlebell swing. A proper swing gets your whole posterior chain going, especially your hammies. To do these, start with your knees slightly bent and the kettlebell in front of you, held with both hands. Drop it between your legs slightly behind your butt, and spring up using your glutes. Let the kettlebell reach the horizontal position with your arms parallel to the floor, and let the weight bring you back to the starting position, keeping your back as straight as you can.

It’s worth mentioning that when doing a kettlebell swing, a common mistake is to squat, bending at the knees. To do a kettlebell swing, you want to think more about hinging back at the hips, not bending at the knee. The knees will bend a little, but only in reaction to the hip hinge. So hinge those hips then drive them forward to pop that bell up to shoulder height. Try two sets of 20 with a manageable weight (not painful, but also not too easy). 

That’s it…thunderous thigh muscles await! We hope you’ve enjoyed this leg-shredding thigh workout, and that it helps you get those sexy and strong gams you’ve been waiting for. If you’re looking for a little more, be sure to check out this Outer & Inner Thigh Toner Class. And if that just wets your whistle, be sure to sign up for a 7-Day Free Trial with Studio SWEAT onDemand! We’ve got tons of virtual upper and lower body sculpting workouts that you can do from the comfort of your home, plus an endless library of cycling, kickboxing, core, bootcamp, yoga, Pilates, barre classes, and a whole lot more. Sign up today, and get after it!