The 7 Best Exercises for Trimmer Thighs

02/05/2014 at 02:48 PM ET

Harley Pasternak
Courtesy Harley Pasternak

Harley Pasternak is a celebrity trainer and nutrition expert who has worked with stars from Halle Berry and Lady Gaga to Robert Pattinson and Robert Downey Jr. He’s also a New York Times best-selling author, with titles including The Body Reset Diet and The 5-Factor Diet. Tweet him @harleypasternak.

Just what are the absolute best sculpting and toning exercises ever?

Well I’m actually turning to you, the readers, to help me decide what the most effective, efficient, safe and enjoyable exercises are.

Each week, I’ll present to you some of my favorite toning and strengthening movements. You try each one, then Tweet me @harleypasternak with what you think is the best exercise for that specific muscle (group).

Today we’ll focus on the front of the thigh/butt. Try at least 2 sets of 20 reps of each before you decide. Ready? Without further adieu, my top moves are …

Harley Pasternak Skater Lunge
Courtesy Harley Pasternak

1. Skater Lunge
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Step your right foot behind your left leg and bend both knees to lower into a lunge, with your right knee behind your left heel. Press through your left heel and bring your right foot back to starting position. That’s one rep; repeat on the other side and continue alternating.

Harley Pasternak Reverse Lunge
Courtesy Harley Pasternak

2. Reverse Lunge
Start by standing upright, feet together, and take a controlled large step backward with your left foot. Lower your hips so that your front leg is parallel to the floor and your right knee is directly over your ankle. Keep your left knee bent at a 90-degree angle and pointing toward the floor. Keep your back straight, looking straight ahead. When your left knee is almost (but not actually) touching the floor, push with your left foot to return your left leg back to starting standing position. Complete 10 reps on one side before switching to your other side.

Harley Pasternak Jump Squat
Courtesy Harley Pasternak

3. Jump Squat
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Start the motion by doing a regular squat, then at the bottom, jump up explosively, hands over head. When you land, lower your body back into the starting squat position to complete one rep.

Harley Pasternak Sumo Squat
Courtesy Harley Pasternak

4. Sumo Squat
Stand holding the end of one dumbbell with both hands, arms in front of belly and extended toward the floor; place feet more than hip-width apart, toes turned out slightly and knees soft. Slowly bend knees, lowering butt until knees are bent about 90 degrees (keep chest up to reduce back strain); pause, press through your heels, return to the starting position and repeat.

Harley Pasternak Step Up
Courtesy Harley Pasternak

5. Step Up
Stand up straight facing a sturdy chair, step or bench. Place your left foot flat on the bench and step up, with your weight through your heel, to a standing position. Keeping your left foot on the bench, step your right leg back down and repeat. Finish one side before moving to the other leg.

Harley Pasternak Single-leg Tap Squat
Courtesy Harley Pasternak

6. Single-Leg Tap Squat
Sit on the end of a bench or chair, holding dumbbells in each hand. Lower your body until your glutes hit the bench or chair. Immediately, come back up to starting position. Treat the bench as a chair behind you so that you sit down by moving your hips backward and down, rather than just down.

Harley Pasternak Walking Lunge
Courtesy Harley Pasternak

7. Walking Lunge
Start by standing upright, feet together, holding two dumbbells at your sides (optional). Take a large controlled step forward with your right leg and lower your hips toward the floor as you bend both knees (almost at 90-degree angles). The back knee should come close to (but never actually touch) the ground. Your front knee should be directly over the ankle and the back knee should be pointing straight down. Push off with your left foot and bring it forward to the starting position. Next: Step forward and repeat with the left leg and alternate.

So… what did you think? What’s the best thigh/butt exercise ever?

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Showing 20 comments

Kim Gish on

All if these require healthy knees….what about a person with two complete knee replacements???

help on

Or 2 knees that need surgery!

Allison on

It was very helpful to show Haley actually performing the moves- sometimes it can be difficult to figure out the moves based on written descriptions only. Thanks!

Jennifer on

Considering that I am in Pulmonary Rehab, I’m not sure I could accomplish some of these. I felt out of breath just looking at them, lol! Guess I’ll stick with my treadmill and cross trainer machine that they have me doing. As much as I’d love to get a great butt and thighs, breathing is more important to me and doing the up/down motions would totally wear me out quick and put me on oxygen! But if you can do the movements I hope that it works well for you!

Martina on

Harley is hot.

Anonymous on

If you want trimmer thighs, I wouldn’t use any weight beyond your own body for any of these exercises.

chloe on

great article. these are all great booty exercises.

trinity on

I love your exercises. I did them religiously for years with great success. Since having disk decompression and fusion surgeries on my lower spine(2 metal plates & screws) I’ve been told not to lunge, impact, twist or bend core, or lift any wieght over 5lbs. I am rapidly getting a thick core and weak legs. Do you have any suggestions on what I can do to reduce core thickness and strengthen my legs. I want to be healthy again. 51 yrs old, italian decent woman. Thank you so much for any help you could give.

Denise on

I laughed out loud at the comment below that said if you wanted trimmer thighs you should not use weights. I am an hourglass woman, so wide hips and let me tell you, I worked out with a trainer who has a very similar training philosophy to Harley’s. I am a short gal and I went from a 135 pounds to 118 pounds (no calorie counting, no cutting out this food that food, just paying attention to eating a balanced diet) and I was wearing an XS dress on my bachelorette party. My trainer would make me hold a round weight over my head and do walking lunges. Or I would do squats with rows (reaching my left leg with my right arm with the dumbbell as I squat and lift my arm up as I get up) I loved them.

Angela on

All great exercises and thanks for the moving visuals to ensure proper technique.

Remy on

don’t bother asking him about suggestions when you have physical challenges, he never responds

followkuz on

Harley covers all bases here for toning thighs while promoting lean muscle mass. If you follow some of his aforementioned diet advice you’ll create the perfect storm. I.e., it actually works!

Plus he makes ‘working’ legs enjoyable by replacing the gym w exercises you can do outside.

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