Squats are superb at sculpting your thighs, but they won't remove an ounce of fat on their own. That's because there's no such thing as spot reduction, because exercise doesn't trim fat from specific body parts. But don't rule out the mighty squat quite yet -- this move shapes your legs, thighs and rear for muscle definition. For thinner thighs, pair squats with an overall fat-reduction plan that includes reducing calories and engaging in regular aerobic activity.
Squats are classified as resistance exercises, and their main targets are the quadricep muscles on the front of your thighs. They also work your gluteus maximus, or your buttocks, as well as the adductor magnus in the inner thigh and the soleus, a calf muscle. To stabilize your body during squats, you also engage the hamstrings on the back of your thighs, as well as gastrocnemius calf muscles. Perform two to three sets of 12 squats each for the best muscle-toning results.
Squats and Weight
Squats do burn a few calories, but not enough to make a major difference in fat loss. In the average 30-minute resistance-training session, a 155-pound woman burns just 112 calories -- and you'd be hard pressed to perform squats for half an hour straight, not to mention the injury risk. But squats do build muscle mass, eventually speeding up your resting metabolic rate because muscle burns calories. For this reason, resistance training is an excellent tool for weight management.
Incorporate squats into a resistance-training routine that includes all major muscle groups: legs, thighs, stomach, back, chest and arms. Focusing on just one area of the body leads to imbalance, and neglected muscles lose tissue as you age. Perform resistance training two to three times weekly. Cardio is also an important part of your routine, and you'll shed fat faster with 300 minutes of aerobic activity per week. For extra shaping, choose cardio moves that engage the thighs such as running, walking up steps, riding a bicycle or using an elliptical machine.
There's only one way to get thinner -- eat less than you burn. For moderately active women, this typically means limiting calories to 12 times your weight in pounds. So at 155 pounds, you'll slim down eating 1,860 calories per day, which is pretty sustainable for most women. If you're sedentary, however, you need fewer calories. Trade in the cola and fries for whole, unprocessed foods with low fat content. Fruits and veggies reign, and other great choices are oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, corn tortillas, low-fat cottage cheese, tuna and beans.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.