Squats, deadlifts, and other exercises that target the legs can specifically strengthen and tone the thighs. For some people, losing weight may also help boost muscle definition.

Various types of exercise, from weight training to running and biking, can improve the strength and endurance of the legs.

The thigh is the part of the leg between the hip and knee, and it contains three primary sets of muscles:

  • the quadriceps, at the front of the thigh
  • the adductor muscles, on the inside of the thigh
  • the hamstrings, at the back of the thigh

Regularly performing exercises that target these muscles will strengthen and tone the thighs over time. In this article, we look at some of these exercises.

a woman doing squats as that is how to get smaller thighsShare on Pinterest
Squats are an effective exercise to help strengthen the thighs.

Below, find six exercises and activities that can lead to stronger, more sculpted thighs.


Squats are a compound movement, meaning that multiple muscle groups are working at the same time.

Squats are highly effective for strengthening the leg muscles, and there are several variations. Bodyweight squats may be best for a beginner; they require no equipment and are a good way to learn the correct form.

Over time, some people increase the intensity by adding weight. Some common variations that include weights are barbell front squats, barbell back squats, and goblet squats.

Bulgarian split squat

Bulgarian split squats are another good way to strengthen the thighs, and a person can perform them at home. The only necessary equipment is a sturdy chair or stool.

It is best to start without weights. To increase the intensity, a person could hold a dumbbell in front of the chest or hold two dumbbells, one on either side of the body.


The deadlift is another compound movement. Because most of the lift is performed with the legs, this exercise helps build strength in the lower body. It is particularly good for engaging the hamstrings.

There are many variations of deadlifts, each of which requires a barbell or another type of weight.


Step-ups target the thighs and other muscles in the leg.

A person can perform them at home, using a sturdy chair or the stairs, or at the gym, using a bench or a raised platform.


Cycling is a form of cardiovascular, or cardio, exercise. It can be an excellent way to strengthen the thigh muscles while burning fat, if that is part of a person’s fitness goal.

The action of pedaling requires the thigh muscles to keep pushing the legs downward. With repetition, the muscles gain endurance.

It can be easy to incorporate cycling into a routine, by cycling to work, for example, or using an exercise bike at the gym before or after weight training.

To increase the intensity, a person can try biking uphill or on rougher terrain. On an exercise bike, a person can usually increase the resistance.


Running is another form of cardio exercise that can strengthen the thigh muscles, work the legs overall, and help build endurance.

Some people prefer an outdoor run, while others prefer running on a treadmill.

Start with shorter distances and durations. A person might aim to run without stopping for 1 mile or 5–10 minutes. After achieving this, build up to longer distances and durations.

There are no shortcuts to having stronger, slimmer, more toned thighs.

Making these changes can take several weeks or months, depending on a person’s fitness goals. Pushing the thigh muscles to adapt and strengthen requires consistent exercise.

People who wish to burn fat and lose weight may find that doing so improves definition of the thigh muscles.

Some people find that combining weight loss and muscle strengthening is effective, but others prefer to focus on one goal at a time.

Due to genetics, some people may carry more weight in certain areas, and it is not possible to lose weight from specific spots only.

Burning body fat and losing weight require a person to exercise regularly and eat well. A person should be burning more calories than they consume to lose weight.

Maintaining lifestyle adjustments can be difficult. Setting goals is a good way to stay on track.

Here, find tips for naturally losing weight quickly.

Because females tend to naturally have more body fat than males — who tend to naturally have more muscle mass — some people may wonder if there are exercises that work better for males or females.

However, the process of burning fat and strengthening muscles is the same for everyone. Two people with the same fitness goal may benefit from the same exercise, regardless of their sex.

Consistent exercise is the best way to strengthen the muscles. Squats, cycling, and running are good ways to improve the strength and endurance of the thigh muscles.

Setting goals and having a healthful lifestyle will help a person build strength, tone their thighs, and if they wish, lose weight.