The outer thighs are definitely trouble areas. Unsightly "saddle bags" may even change how you buy swimwear. Genetics plays a starring role in how and where you store fat, but your DNA comes in third to diet and inactivity. Head off lumpy thighs with a balanced diet low in sugar and excess calories, and with an emphasis on lean protein and fresh fruits and vegetables. Exercises will tone your gluteal muscles and tensor fascia muscles -- or the abductors -- but you must add cardio exercise to burn calories and fat.
Stand with your feet together and toes pointing forward for standing iliotibial band stretches. Place your left hand on a sturdy object for balance and pull your shoulders back.
Place your right foot over the left, keeping the toes close to each other. Shift your weight onto the left leg. Raise your right arm and reach it over your head, bending your torso to the left as you do.
Feel the stretch in your tensor fasciae latae -- the muscle running from your pelvic bone to your upper thigh -- as your right hip drops down. Stay in the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds and release, repeating on the opposite side.
Stretch your gluteus medius and minimus muscles with the seated hip internal rotator stretch. Start in a seated position with legs outstretched.
Grasp your left leg and place it atop your right thigh. Move your right hand behind you, pressing it against the floor. Use your left hand and press your left knee down.
Lean back as you press the knee down, and hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds. Repeat the stretch with your right leg.
Tone the abductor group with monster walks, or band walks. Stand shoulder-width apart and loop exercise bands around your knees, and then around your ankles. Make sure each band fits snugly.
Lead with your right foot, walking forward for 15 to 30 paces. Take small steps, feeling the tightness in your outer thighs.
Lead with your left foot this time, using small steps to walk backward for 15 to 30 paces. Walk forward and back once more. Switch your leading legs after two reps and repeat.
Strap a 2- to 5-pound ankle weight onto your right ankle and lie on your left side with legs outstretched. Bend your right leg, folding it under your left leg.
Lie with your torso flat, and your right arm stretched above your head. Use your arm as a headrest. Point your toes forward, tighten your abs and raise your leg.
Lift your left leg, raising it as high as it will go, and then lower it to the floor for one rep. Do three sets of 10 reps, resting for 30 seconds in between each set of 10.
- Slim the abductors by making these and other abductor-specific exercises part of your 20 to 30-minute, twice-weekly strengthening routine. Include 150 minutes of cardio per week to see your strength training pay off.
- Check with a doctor if you’re new to exercise or have a chronic condition.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- Mayo Clinic: Iliotibial band (ITB) stretch
- ExRx.net: Seated Hip Internal Rotator Stretch
- Bodybuilding.com: Monster Walk
- Ex.Rx.net: Weighted Lying Hip Abduction
- Mayo Clinic: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images