What Gym Workouts Are Best for Toning the Abs and Thighs?

Burn fat and build bones with high-impact aerobics.

Burn fat and build bones with high-impact aerobics.

A gym membership gives you access to a variety of machines and routines for abdominal and thigh exercises. Make sure you don't get trapped into a repetitive routine by doing the same exercise every time you go to the gym -- that's boring and not really effective. Cedric X. Bryant, Chief Science Officer of the American Council on Exercise, cites research indicating that workout variety whisks you over the dreaded plateau, so that can you can continue to chisel your lovely abs and thighs.

Cardio Equipment

Aerobic exercise burns away the extra layer of fat, allowing you to show the world the gorgeous fruits of your ab and thigh-toning labor. Focus on machines with adjustable inclines, such as the treadmill and elliptical machine. The steeper inclines will engage your hamstrings. Unless you are using one of the upper-body and lower-body machines, take your hands off of that console and use your abdominal muscles to help you maintain an upright posture. Step on the lateral training machine for aerobic exercise combined with inner and outer thigh toning.

Cardio Classes

When a case of the blahs squashes your motivation, there's nothing like some upbeat music and camaraderie of a group class. Spinning, step and kickboxing classes will get your thighs burning, while the sensuous Latin moves of Zumba and other ethic forms will wake up your obliques. In fact, an American Council on Exercise study revealed that "Zumba is a total-body workout that burns more calories than cardio kickboxing, step aerobics, hooping and power yoga."

Assessing the Impact

The fitness industry changes its tune about high-impact aerobics as often as it changes its aerobic music. High impact was "the thing" back in the Jane Fonda days, then somebody decided it was hard on the joints. Along came low-impact aerobics, whose large, full-body movements also provided an effective leg workouts. Then we discovered that high impact was actually good for us. "Reuters" reports that adding jumping movements might preserve bone density and prevent osteoporosis. Some athletic coaches teach plyometric jumping exercises to females, as a means of training them to engage their often under-worked hamstrings. Boot-camp and sports training instructors incorporate plyometric activities into their classes.

Ab Equipment

The American Council on Exercise listed the captain's chair as the most effective type of abdominal equipment. Performed in an upright position, it involves resting your back against the back support, placing your elbows against the pads and bending your knees toward your chest. For added oblique training, head over to the cable machines for the wood chopper exercises. Sport coaches use these exercises for athletes involved in rotational sports. The wood chopper has two variations. The first involves reaching for the attachment on the lower end of the machine, and rotating your upper body toward the opposite upper corner. The other variation starts from the upper corner and rotates downward.

Ab Classes

The best abdominal exercises are those you can do in perfect form. Pilates doesn't just teach you a bunch of abdominal exercises -- it teaches you how to maximize your technique by assuming optimal postural alignment, along with breathing patterns that increase core muscle engagement. Some of the American Council on Exercise's top rated ab exercises actually evolved from Pilates. The bicycle maneuver, called the crisscross in Pilates, involves lying supine with your legs extended, bending one knee and rotating your upper torso toward the bent knee. The stability ball adds another dimension to ab training in two ways -- it increases the range of motion of the exercise, and it imposes a balance challenge, which demands deep core muscle engagement.

Leg Equipment

ABC News featured a story titled "Seven Manly Gym Machines Women Should Use Too." A "Fitness Magazine " article describes the five best strength machines for women, and Mike Behnken of AskTheTrainer.com informs us that we will hate ourselves later on if we don't do these best leg exercises now. These articles, written by respected fitness professionals, include a common theme. They all suggested compound exercises such as the leg press machine, as well as weighted squats and lunges. These workouts target your hamstrings, quads and glutes, while your inner and outer thigh muscle get called into action to stabilize your knees.

 

About the Author

In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.

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