Toning and tightening the thighs safely requires that you pay special attention to your knees. The knee is a very sensitive area of your body. It is easily injured due to its nature. However, if you wish to attain a firm, tight hip and thigh area, you must engage in the flexing and extension of this joint.
Avoid excessive rotating or twisting movements that may strain the tendons, ligaments, or other vulnerable tissue in the knee area. This patella region (knee area) includes the ACL and PCL. The meniscus has two parts: lateral and medial. Torn menisci or torn ligaments are unfortunate injuries, often requiring surgery. Again, knee safety is imperative when toning the thighs.
Below are four exercises you can do to tone and tighten your thighs. You can try these moves with your trainer or on your own. First, a few words of caution. The old adage goes, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this,” and the doctor responds,”Then don’t do this.” If you have a existing injury, please consult with your doctor before engaging in any formal fitness routine.
1. Leg Extension Machine The leg extension machine is integral in my rehabilitation work with injured clients. Once the okay is received from their doctor, this is usually one of the first things I will suggest.
(Note that everyone is an individual; this exercise can harm more than hurt if the wrong type of knee injury is being addressed.)
Start with very light weight, about 20 lb., and raise your legs to knee level without locking them. Repeat 8-15 times and do 2-4 sets. If you are getting stronger, pyramid this. Increase the weight a bit and decrease the number of repetitions. For example, increase to 30 or 40 lb. and drop to 6-12 repetitions. Your back is straight; your exhale comes as you lift.
2. Hamstring Curl Machine The hamstring curl machine is very important, as well. It often reveals a common lack of strength in the back of the leg, which this machine focuses on. The repetitions and number of sets remain the same as with the leg extension machine.
Be careful! Although both the front and back of the thighs are areas for many women, the front and back of the thighs should remain relatively close in strength, in terms of amount of weight used. Do not move too quickly; you will strain your back and your knees.
With your back straight, curl your feet toward your gluteals (buttocks) as you exhale. Repeat 8-15 times and pyramid as needed. Challenge yourself, but don’t hurt yourself.
3. Inner Thigh Machine (Hip Adduction) This machine is great for firming the inner thigh area. The muscles here are long and thin and should respond well to the appropriate overload (challenge). Remember that you are unique: find a weight that is right for you, and warm the muscle appropriately by pyramiding once again. Move on to a greater challenge as you feel comfortable. In the beginning, 1-3 sets is plenty.
4. Cable Kickbacks This move is one of my favorites. When done correctly, it tones and tightens the glutes, hamstrings, and quadriceps.
Stand with the cable around the right leg at the ankle. Face the cable machine and bend your left leg a bit. With your hands resting on the machine (to stabilize your spine), kick your right leg back 8-15 times with light weight. Pause for about 30 seconds and repeat. If you like, you can pyramid this as well by increasing the weight, as your strength allows, while decreasing the number of repetitions in each set.
When performing this exercise, do not swing your leg–you will risk hyper-extension of your spine and serious injury.
Have a great, safe workout!