Squats may not be your idea of fun, but they are a convenient form of strength training that can be performed almost anywhere without cumbersome or expensive gym equipment. Squats work the muscles in your upper legs, leading to a sleek and trim look. When combined with a healthy diet and regular cardio exercise, a thorough squat workout can help reduce the size of thick or flabby thighs.
Squats primarily work your upper leg muscles as well as your gluteals. The targeted muscles, which make up your thighs, include the hamstrings at the back of your upper leg, the quadriceps at the front, and your adductors, which are on the inside of your leg. The adductors pull your legs inward, while your hamstrings and quads help bend and straighten your legs.
A Comprehensive Fitness Plan
While squats are an excellent way to start shaping your legs, spot reduction -- or losing fat in one targeted area of the body -- is a myth. To reduce leg size you will need to combine your squat workout with other strength-training exercises, two to three times a week. On off days, perform 20 to 60 minutes of cardio exercise, which works your heart and lungs and can help you burn fat in all areas of your body, including your legs. In addition to your fitness regimen, eat a healthy balanced diet free of sugary snacks.
The Basic Squat
The basic squat, also called the body-weight squat, will give your legs a full workout, from calves to thighs to butt. Start the squat by standing up straight with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides. With your weight on the back of your heels, slowly lower your hips, bending them back and down while you bend at your knees. In the lowered position your knees should be aligned with your second toe and your shinbone should be parallel to your torso. Keeping your back and chest in position, slowly rise back up by pushing against the floor through your heels. Repeat for eight to 12 reps.
The Barbell Squat
The barbell squat includes the challenge of additional weight to the basic squat. This squat is performed with the barbell situated high on your back, stabilized by your shoulder blades. You may want to have a spotter nearby. Begin with your feet shoulder-width apart and with your hands gripping the bar. Your wrists should be above your elbows. Slowly lower as you would in a regular squat, sitting back and keeping your calves parallel to the wall. Push back up and perform again, for eight to 12 reps.
Warm your legs up thoroughly before each squat workout with a light form of cardio and stretches that focus on the muscles of your upper legs. Stay well hydrated throughout your workout. Perform squats on alternating days to allow your muscles to recover between each workout. Consult a physician before beginning any new strenuous exercise plan.
Joelle Dedalus began writing professionally for websites such as PugetSoundMagazine.com in 2009. She received her B.A. in English education at Iowa State University and is currently a M.F.A. candidate in creative nonfiction writing at Emerson College in Boston, where she is developing a manuscript on literary travel. Her areas of expertise include travel and literature, the outdoors and the arts.