Tight muscles, or muscle tone, implies muscles that maintain a slight state of contraction, even at rest. Tightening and chiseling your thigh muscles requires the strategy of a scientist and the precision of a sculptor. Although genetics plays some role in your tendency to maintain leg tone, don't blame everything on mom and dad. Even if you weren't born with designer genes, a targeted diet and exercise program will enhance muscle tone.
Losing the Fat
Even the most meticulous leg exercise program can't hide the consequences of a high-fat diet, especially since most women tend to accumulate body fat in their lower bodies. Dietary modification, combined with aerobic exercise, will eventually shed the outer layer of leg fat, enabling you to show off those gorgeously toned leg muscles you worked so hard to create. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on most days of the week.
Balance Flexibility with Strength
Sitting with your legs stretched apart like a wishbone and bending forward to kiss the floor probably wows observers at the gym, but over-stretching might destroy your muscle tone. Sports medicine expert Vern Gambetta, in an article titled "Too Much Too Loose," explains that stretching beyond a functional range of motion compromises joint integrity. An article in "The New York Times" appropriately titled "Stretching: The Truth" details the mechanisms by which over-stretching can weaken your muscles. To maintain leg muscle tone, balance your stretching program with strength-training exercises.
Correct Muscle Imbalances
The myth of spot reducing or spot toning probably stems from the equally fallacious concept of "problem areas" in the body. When not resulting from body-fat accumulation, a lack of muscle tone in specific parts of the leg might indicate muscle imbalances. Your muscles work in pairs. As one muscle group contracts, its opposite muscle stretches and relaxes. Telltale signs of muscular imbalance include powerful quads and weak hamstrings, or tight outer thighs and weak inner thighs. Evaluate your leg workout. If you emphasize one muscle over its antagonist, you might be creating those problem areas.
Leg-toning methods come in many forms, including body-weight training, leg machines, free weights and barbells, elastic resistance and Pilates mat and equipment exercise. Varying your leg workout prevents boredom and burnout, and keeps your leg muscles responsive to the program. Each type of program serves a different purpose. Squats and lunges, performed with or without weights, activate groups of muscles simultaneously. The Pilates method provides a variety of exercises that target the inner and outer thighs.
The American College of Sports Medicine suggests two to three weekly strength-training sessions. Perform three to five sets of eight to 12 reps of each exercise, and allow 48 hours between training sessions. Do your compound exercises, such as squats and lunges, before you perform isolation exercises such as the hamstring curl and the inner and outer thigh exercises.
- BBC: Muscle Tone and Posture
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- Elite Track: Too Much Too Loose
- The New York Times: Stretching: The Truth
- American College of Sports Medicine: Progression Models in Resistance Training for Healthy Adults
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.