thigh exercises

Photo: Courtesy of Pure Yoga

The Move: Crossed-Legged Extension
The "4" in Figure 4 classes by Pure Yoga refers to the areas of the body targeted: abs, arms, glutes and, of course, thighs. Madeline Day, the creative coordinator for Figure 4, says that you'll really feel (and see) this move in the top of the thigh—right about where a miniskirt would end and self-consciousness would usually begin.

1. Sit in a chair with your back straight, your core engaged. Grip the seat of the chair lightly for support.
2. Cross one leg over the other, at the ankles. Exhale and extend your bottom leg until it is completely straight and parallel to the ground. (The top leg will lift as well, but keeping it relaxed will allow it to act as a "weight" for the active leg.)
3. Do 5 reps of lifting and lowering, then hold at the top for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
4. Straighten both legs and lower to the ground, pause, then re-cross with the opposite leg on top. Repeat exercise with opposite leg.

thigh exercises

Photo: Courtesy of Pure Yoga

The Move: Reverse Crunch
This isometric exercise doesn't look like much—which makes it great for when you want to do a little toning at your desk. "You'll also feel it in your lower abs," says Day from Figure 4, especially if you keep your back straight throughout the sequence.

1. Sit up straight in your chair with a neutral spine and extend your legs in front of you.
2. Place your palms on either side of your body, flat on the seat of your chair.
3. Squeeze your legs together, then lift them so your feet hover one inch off the ground and your thighs are lifting slightly off your chair.
4. Bring your legs 2 to 3 inches apart, then tap legs together 15 times.
5. Release and lower your legs.
6. Reps: 5.

The Move: Seated Adduction/Leg Extensions
This move was developed by Jenn Zerling, a certified personal trainer in Los Angeles and the author of Breaking the Chains of Obesity, and can be done in an office chair, an easy chair or sitting on the side of your bed. While the prime movers are the adductors of the inner legs, the outer leg muscles (including the glutes) are engaged and act as leg stabilizers, says Zerling.

1. Grab a rolled towel or a medicine ball and place it between your knees. Make sure your feet are flat on the ground with your knees facing forward. Place your hands on either side of your hips.
2. While engaging the core muscles, lift both knees up about two inches toward your chest.
3. Extend both legs outward and squeeze the thighs inward. Hold the squeeze for 3 counts and then release.
4. Reps: 15 (keeping the towel or ball between your knees at all times).

The Move: Seated Diamonds
While you're working your inner and outer thighs, why not tone your core, glutes, quads and hamstrings? This compound exercise targets pretty much everything at once, says Zerling. And the only equipment required is a chair...and a TV with prerecorded episodes of Scandal to distract you from the burn.

1. Sit tall at the edge of a chair. Extend your legs in front of you, then bend your knees and pull your feet in, pressing the soles together.
2. While holding onto the sides of the chair, use the strength of your core to pull the knees out and the heels toward your groin as you create a diamond shape with your legs.
3. Squeeze your inner thighs at the top of the exercise, and then extend your legs out in front of you, keeping your feet off the ground.
4. Reps: 15.

thigh exercises

Photo: Courtesy of Bar Method

The Move: The Bar Method Pretzel
When it's time to do this killer bottom-lifting exercise in Bar Method classes in New York City, even the leanest, strongest, most Black Swan–like students look like they're about to cry. But people have a love-hate relationship with the Pretzel. Bar Method founder Burr Leonard says it's hugely popular—probably because you feel it so intensely in your glutes, upper thigh and waist that there's no way it can't be working.

1. Sit on a soft carpet or exercise mat. Drop your right knee to the floor, aligned directly in front of your right hip. Bend that right leg to 90 degrees.
2. Lean your torso to the right side (you'll be at an angle of approximately 45 degrees, and most of your weight will be on your right hand. Keep your fingers pointing forward).
3. Slide your left leg (your "working leg") back behind you, so that your thigh is in line with or slightly behind your hip. Bend that knee to 90 degrees.
4. Lift your chest and pull in your abs.
5. Raise your left working leg off the floor an inch and hold for about 10 seconds. (Keep your left thigh next to or slightly behind your left hip.)
6. Press your left leg back (one inch) and forward (one inch) 20 times.
7. Lower your leg. Lift it again. Repeat the 10-second hold and then the 20 presses.
8. Repeat the sequence with the other leg on the opposite side.

Next: 5 ways to get a flat stomach without crunches