7 Best Exercises for Outer Thighs (Enhanced Core Strength)

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Published by Christiana Mikesch, CPT | Senior Coach
Last updated: January 27, 2024
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Strengthening the outer thigh muscles is essential in creating a balanced fitness routine.

Over the past decade, I have designed hundreds of exercise plans for my clients, and many are surprised to learn that having strong and toned outer thighs not only supports the legs but contributes to overall core strength and stability.

Whether you’re new to strength training or a seasoned gym goer, this article will outline some of the best exercises to incorporate into your next outer thigh workout.

Quick Summary

  • Enhancing your outer thigh strength can be achieved with targeted exercises like curtsy lunges, Romanian deadlifts, or goblet squats, which not only tone these muscles but also contribute to overall core stability.
  • Strong thigh muscles offer a range of benefits for your entire body, including improved movement and posture, better metabolism, and effective muscle gain.
  • A 2015 study from Osteoporosis International suggests a positive link between thigh muscle volume and bone mineral density, emphasizing the importance of thigh strength.
  • From my experience, focusing on outer thigh exercises is key to achieving a well-rounded lower body workout, which is essential for both aesthetic and functional fitness goals.

Best Outer Thigh Exercises

Stretching and doing the outer thighs exercises

Working the outer thigh muscles can be done with weights, resistance bands, or simply your body weight.

Here are some exercises to incorporate into your next leg-day workout.

Not only will you feel your outer thighs working with these exercises, but they also benefit the inner thighs.

Sets and reps will depend on your fitness level.

You can increase reps and sets as you get stronger.

1. Goblet Squat

Goblet squats are a challenging squat variation that you begin by standing and holding both sides of a kettlebell handle.

Emphasizing the lowering phase of movements like the goblet squat can significantly boost muscle tension and growth in your outer thighs.

Pick a weight that is appropriate for your level of fitness.

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you hold the weight close to your body at chest level.
  • Push your hips back and bend your knees, lowering into a squat position.
  • Keep your chest up as you squat, and keep your back straight.
  • Lower yourself as far as you can, ensuring you don’t round your back.
  • Push through your heels and squeeze your glutes until you are standing again.
  • Repeat for the desired reps.

2. Romanian Deadlift

To begin, stand with a barbell in front of you, your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.

I've seen my clients, particularly women, achieve significant improvements in outer thigh strength and definition with this exercise.

  • Lean forward at your hips with a slight bend to your knees.
  • Keep your back straight as your upper body lowers toward the floor.
  • With your hands shoulder-width apart, grip the barbell.
  • Keep a tight core.
  • Look down and slightly forward to avoid hyperextension by aligning your neck with your back.
  • Tighten your glutes and hamstrings.
  • Push through your feet to stand upright, lifting the barbell to the upper thigh level.
  • Keep your glutes squeezed and lock out your hips at the movement’s peak.
  • Repeat the exercise by lowering the barbell between your knees and toes.

3. Curtsy Lunge

Woman holding dumbbell while performing curtsy lunge

This variation of the classic lunge will target muscles in the inner and outer thighs.

  • Stand with your hands on your hips and your feet hip-width apart.
  • Take a big step with your right leg and cross it behind the other leg.
  • Lower your hips while bending your front leg until your left thigh is almost parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your hips and shoulders square and your torso upright.
  • Return to the starting position.
  • Repeat on the other side to complete one rep.
  • You can perform all reps on one side before switching.

4. Lateral Lunge

This exercise is another variation of the classic lunge that targets the inner and outer thigh muscles.

In my experience, incorporating lateral lunges has been highly effective in enhancing the outer thigh strength and mobility of my clients.

  • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
  • Lift your left foot and take a big step, about two feet, to the side with your left leg.
  • Bend your left knee and lower it into a lunge position until it is at 90 degrees.
  • Push back to start and repeat all reps for one side.
  • You can also alternate sides to complete one rep.

You can add weight as you grow stronger to add intensity and challenge.

“Lunges are important for both strengthening and injury prevention. They also challenge core stability in unilateral movement patterns.”

- Travis Edwards, Physical Therapist

5. Lateral Leg Raises

Lateral leg raises with resistance band

Here are a couple of suitable variations of this outer thigh exercise that are worth mentioning.

Standing Lateral Leg Lift

To begin, stand upright, holding the back of a chair for stability.

  • Move your body as little as possible, keep your left leg straight and lift it to the side.
  • Lower your back to start and switch legs.
  • Movement should be controlled and focused.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Lying Lateral Leg Lifts

To begin, lie on the floor on your side. Support yourself on your elbow with your legs stacked on each other from hip to ankle.

  • Keep your body in line with your legs and keep your core tight.
  • Lift your top leg so it is at approximately 45 degrees.
  • Lower back down to the start with a slow, controlled movement.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.
  • Switch sides to work the opposite leg.

6. Clamshell

A woman performing clamshell workout

The clamshell is a great exercise to work the thigh muscles, and you can add difficulty by incorporating resistance bands or dumbbells.

My clients often find this exercise particularly beneficial for targeting those hard-to-reach outer thigh areas.

  • Lie on your side on the floor, bending your knees to a 45-degree angle.
  • Rest your head in the hand of your lower arm.
  • Use your top arm to keep your body steady.
  • Do not rock your top hip backward.
  • Engage your core to stabilize your pelvis and spine.
  • Keep your feet touching and raise your upper knee as high as possible, ensuring you don’t shift your hips or pelvis.
  • Keep the lower leg on the floor.
  • Pause at the top and then return to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired amount of reps before switching sides.

7. Glute Bridge Hip Abduction

This variation in glute bridges requires a resistance band.

  • To start, lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Place the band around the thighs, right above the knees.
  • Use a band that is appropriate for your fitness level.
  • Your feet should be shoulder-width apart, keeping your heels planted on the floor.
  • Lift your pelvis and tighten the glutes to bridge the body.
  • Engage the core and keep the spine neutral.
  • When you reach the movement’s peak, keep your heels planted and push your knees apart, stretching the band with your legs.
  • Slowly bring the knees together and lower the pelvis back to start.
  • Repeat.

Why Strengthening This Muscle is Important

Forward lunges to stretch the legs and outer thighs

Before delving into the importance of strengthening the outer thigh, let's first understand its muscle anatomy.

Key muscles in this area include the gluteus medius, gluteus maximus, vastus lateralis, and tensor fasciae latae.

A significant study in Osteoporosis International highlights that increased thigh muscle volume positively affects bone mineral density (BMD), with a notable correlation between changes in thigh muscle volume and hip BMD [1].

Beyond this, the Cleveland Clinic points out that strong thigh muscles offer comprehensive benefits for the entire body [2].

These include:


How Long Does It Take to Tone the Outer Thighs?

How long it takes to tone the outer thighs depends on the frequency, intensity, and duration of your workouts. With consistency, you should see small changes within a month and more noticeable differences in three to four.

Can Walking Reduce the Outer Thighs?

Yes, walking can reduce the outer thighs, but there are other factors to consider, like intensity, fitness level, distance, and terrain incline.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3903658/
  2. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/body/21936-thigh-muscles
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About The Author

Christiana Mikesch, CPT
Senior Coach
Christiana Mikesch, CPT is a personal trainer and author with contributions to publications like the Chicago Tribune and Yahoo. She emphasizes a holistic approach to weight loss, combining an energy-fueling diet, goal-oriented workouts, and daily habits. Her approach avoids short-term goals and fosters a lifelong commitment to health and well-being.
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Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer
Lisa Lorraine Taylor, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health and is the owner of Taylor Made Fitness. Her philosophy centers on cutting through the hype and misinformation surrounding dietary supplements, focusing instead on practical, science-backed strategies for health and weight loss.
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Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
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