Whether you’re looking to tone your lower half for more daring warm-weather wardrobes or just to give your yoga pants a little more shape, focusing on the thighs is a good first step. Strong upper legs are not only good for improving everyday functional movements–you know, picking up toddlers, sitting and standing from your office chair–but when done well, can give your entire body a more feminine figure.
There are tons of leg exercises you could do, but to keep your routine efficient and low on equipment, grab a kettlebell (a dumbbell works, too), and try these six exercises to get your thighs tight and toned. Bonus? Many of the exercises provided are compound movements, meaning more than one muscle group in your body is needed to do the work. So while your thighs are the star of the sweat session, multiple muscles in your lower half–not to mention your core–will glean benefits as well.
Squat Kicks: Holding a kettlebell in your right hand, squat with your legs at about hip-width distance apart, getting your butt below parallel. As you return to the standing position, power up your left leg and kick up from the hip. Return to standing as you start into your next squat. Complete all reps on one leg before switching to the other side.
Lunge Pass Unders: With your kettlebell in your right hand, step forward on your right leg into a lunge position. Keeping your back straight and your chest up, pass the the kettlebell under your legs to your left hand. Step your right leg back to the starting position. Alternate reps on each leg.
Sumo Squats: Target those inner thighs with this wide-leg stance squat. Stand with your heels at about shoulder-width distance apart, with your toes pointing slightly out. Hold the kettlebell with both hands at chest height. With a slight curve in your lower back and your chest up, sink your butt back and down as if sitting into a chair. Try to get below parallel before squeezing your inner thighs and returning to a standing position.
Single-Leg Deadlifts: Find balance on your left leg, and hold the kettlebell in your left hand. Hinge from the hip and let the kettlebell lower toward the floor as your straightened right leg rises behind you. Touch the kettlebell to the floor, then squeeze your thigh and glute muscles to return to a standing position. Complete all reps on one leg before switching to the other side.
Windmills: In your right hand, extend the kettlebell up over head with your arm straight. Take a wide stance, with your right foot facing forward and your left foot turned out. Straighten your left arm by your side and hinge from the waist as you lower your left hand toward the inside of your left foot. Squeeze your leg and core muscles as your straighten back up with a flat back. Complete all reps on one leg before switching to the other side.
Figure Eights: With a kettlebell in one hand, sit back into a half-squat position, where your butt is just above parallel. Hold this position with strong legs and a tight core as you pass the kettlebell between and around your legs in a figure-eight position. Hold the squat through all reps.
Complete three rounds of the following circuit, doing each exercise one right after another. Take a 45-60 second break between each round.
- Squat Kicks: 10 kicks, each leg
- Lunge Pass Unders: 10 pass unders, each leg
- Sumo Squats: 12 squats
- Single-Leg Deadlifts: 10 deadlifts, each leg
- Windmills: 10 windmills, each side
- Figure Eights: 12 figure eights