10 Best Exercises for Saddlebags (Lose Outer Thigh Fat)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers | Senior Coach
Last updated: April 30, 2024
FACT CHECKED by James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
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Saddlebags are not an actual body part but a popular informal term for accumulating fat cells on the outer thighs just under the buttocks.

Throughout my athletic career, I've worked with many clients who struggle with thigh fat, and they often seek my guidance on exercises that effectively contour this area.

Drawing on my experience as a trained athlete, I've mastered exercises that not only enhance core stability and flexibility but also specifically target outer thigh fat for a more contoured appearance.

Here are some of my favorites.

Quick Summary

  • The best exercises for reducing saddlebags and losing outer thigh fat include side-lying leg raises, planks, inner thigh leg lifts, squats, etc.
  • These exercises target specific muscle groups such as glutes, hip abductors, hamstrings, quads, and inner and outer thighs, promoting core stability, flexibility, and overall fat reduction.
  • According to the American Heart Association, incorporating thirty minutes of cardio several times a week enhances the effectiveness of these exercises in burning calories and reducing body weight.
  • Based on my experience as a trained athlete, a holistic approach combining these targeted exercises with a healthy diet and supplements proves most effective in diminishing saddlebags.

Moves to Lose Them Once and For All

A young and fit woman doing planks

In my years of training, I've learned that you can't target fat loss in specific areas, including saddlebags, but a combination of exercises can promote overall fat reduction.

Still, strength and flexibility exercises that target the upper legs and lower abdomen, with cardio, can promote overall fat loss and thus reduce saddlebags.

Here are the most effective ones:

1. Side-Lying Leg Raises

This exercise targets your glutes and hip abductors.

  • Lie on your side and prop your head up with your bottom arm.
  • Slowly raise your top leg, but ensure to keep your hips aligned.
  • Lower your leg with a controlled motion back to the start.
  • Perform this exercise on both legs for three sets of 15.

2. Planks

Planks are an invaluable exercise that targets all your core muscles.

  • Lie face down with your palms flat on the floor below your shoulders.
  • Slowly push up so that your weight rests on your forearms and toes.
  • Your body should be in a straight line from your neck to your heels.
  • Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Lower yourself to the floor, briefly pause, and push yourself up again.
  • Repeat this three times.

3. Inner Thigh Leg Lifts

Inner-Thigh-Lift

These leg lifts are a great way to target the glutes and inner thighs.

  • Lie on your side and extend your bottom leg out straight.
  • Cross your top leg over your bottom leg and place your foot flat on the floor at your hips.
  • Flex your bottom foot.
  • Slowly lift your extended leg up and then lower it.
  • Repeat 12–15 times.
  • Perform three sets before you switch sides.

4. Squats

Squats target the hamstrings, quads, glutes, and inner and outer thighs.

  • Start in a standing position with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Extend both your arms out in front of you.
  • Slowly bend your knees and lower into the squat position.
  • With your knees bent, keep your chest open and your head over your hips.
  • Push through your heels until you are standing in the starting position.
  • Perform three sets of ten reps.

“Not only will squats shape your quads, hamstrings, and glutes, they’ll also help your balance and mobility, and increase your strength”

- Nicole Davis, Certified Personal Trainer

5. Side Lunges

Side-Lunges

This lunge variation works the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and hip abductors.

  • Start by standing with your feet hip-distance apart with your arms out in front of you.
  • Step out to the side with your left leg while bending both knees and lowering to a squat position.
  • Keep your spine straight.
  • Return to standing and perform on the other side.
  • Perform ten reps for each leg.
  • Aim for three sets.

6. Step-Ups

Stepping up on a small, sturdy bench or step targets the quads and hamstrings. You can increase the intensity by picking a higher step.

  • Step up by bending your right knee and keeping your left leg straight.
  • Immediately step up with your left leg so both feet are on the step.
  • Step down, placing your right foot on the floor, and then step down with the left.
  • You are now back to where you started.
  • Try for three sets of 12–15 reps per leg.

7. Bridges

Bridges

Bridges work the glute muscles.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  • Your ankles should be below your knees.
  • Squeeze your butt muscles and raise your hips toward the sky.
  • Hold for a three-count and return your hips to the starting position.
  • Perform three sets of 12–15 reps.

8. Curtsy Lunge

Curtsy lunges are a great way to work the inner thigh muscles and hip abductors, stabilizing the hips and improving posture.

  • Stand with your feet hip-distance apart.
  • Keep the weight on your right foot while you take a big step back and cross behind your right leg with your left leg.
  • Lower your body by bending both knees while keeping your back straight and your core muscles engaged.
  • Your right thigh should be parallel to the floor.
  • Return to the start.
  • Repeat 10–12 before switching to the other leg.
Single-Leg-Hip-Raise

9. Single-Leg Hip Raise

  • Lie on the floor with your left knee bent and your left foot flat on the floor.
  • Raise your right leg so it is in line with your left thigh.
  • Push up your hips while keeping your right leg elevated.
  • Pause briefly.
  • Return to the start position with a controlled motion.
  • Perform 12–15 reps before switching legs.
  • Repeat with the other leg.
  • Aim to perform three sets.

10. Clamshell

The clamshell targets the inner and outer thighs, glutes, and upper thighs while improving hip and pelvis stability.

  • Lie on your side with one leg on the other and your knees slightly bent.
  • Keep your feet together as you lift your top knee.
  • Raise your knee until it is parallel with your hip.
  • Lower your knee to the start and repeat for 12–15 reps.
  • Switch sides and repeat.
  • Perform three sets.

Related: Clamshell Exercise: Why Should You Do It and How to

Additional Ways to Fight Them

Holding healthy smoothie with gym partner

You must take a multifaceted approach involving exercise, diet, and supplements to lose weight and reduce saddlebags.

Let’s take a brief look.

1. Other Effective Exercises

While strength training adds muscle tone, adding HIIT, jumping rope, walking, running, swimming, biking, or other aerobic exercises to your workout routine helps you burn fat.

From my personal experience and consistent with the American Heart Association's guidelines, I've found that thirty minutes of cardio exercise multiple times a week is effective for burning calories and reduce body weight, including in problematic areas like saddlebags [1].

2. Diet

In my athletic journey, I've learned the importance of diet; eliminating processed foods and focusing on lean meats, vegetables, and healthy carbs is key to complementing your workout routine.

A healthy diet is critical to weight loss and will work with your exercise routine to help you maintain a calorie deficit.

By focusing on a balanced diet that emphasizes a calorie deficit, is rich in nutrient-dense foods, and limits high-calorie and processed items, you can target overall body fat reduction, including the stubborn fat in the saddlebag area, leading to more toned and defined thighs and hips.

3. Supplements

Adding a supplement, like a fat burner or pre-workout, to your daily routine can support your weight loss efforts. Many fat burners have all-natural ingredients that promote thermogenesis to help you burn extra body fat.

They usually include energy-boosting ingredients that can help you push through workouts.

This can be especially important for those who have a natural predisposition to accumulate fat in the hip and thigh regions, contributing to the development of saddlebags.

FAQs

How Long Does It Take To Get Rid of Saddlebags?

How long it will take to get rid of saddlebags will depend on your genetics, as well as the frequency, duration, and intensity of your training, but with regular exercise and a proper diet, you should start seeing results in 6-12 weeks.

Can Yoga Reduce Saddlebags?

Yes, yoga can reduce saddlebags by reducing overall body fat. Pairing yoga with other fat-loss efforts, like a healthy diet, is essential.


References:

  1. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
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About The Author

Senior Coach
Tyler Sellers is a trained athlete and author with contributions to publications like Men’s Health, The Healthy, Fox Business, NerdWallet, Weight Watchers, and MSN. His unique approach extends beyond physical techniques, emphasizing the significance of mental techniques like the flow state and mind-muscle connection.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
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.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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