5 Terrific Ways to Burn Those Thighs

erin back lunge

Will turkey legs be gracing your Thanksgiving feast? Whether you are the one responsible for cooking them, eating them, or even plan on banishing them from your dining room, your legs can be the focus of conversation around the holiday table if you work these five moves into your weekly workouts. We’re in a #BurnTheTurkey mood, so each exercise was chosen to help you “burn” your thighs. No, we don’t want you to ruin Thanksgiving dinner on purpose. We just want to help you offset a few holiday calories with some fun and effective exercises so you don’t have to make one of those dreaded weight loss New Year’s resolutions!

5 Effective Thigh Exercises

Complete 10 repetitions of each move in quick succession; then repeat 2-3 more times. Be sure to begin with a quick warm-up to get the blood flowing and the joints ready for these exercises.

1. Swivel Lunge

The swivel lunge is a lower body blaster, and if you get low, go slow, and focus on the contraction of the muscles in your lower body, you will feel a burn like no other! Plus, if you keep the movement continuous and add weight to the exercise (medicine ball, handweight, kettlebell), you can even get your heart rate up and burn a few extra calories.

Begin by stepping your right foot back into a lunge. Stay low in the lunge and turn to the right into a plié squat (wide-leg squat with toes and knees pointing out, hips sinking straight down as if you’re sliding down a wall). Stay low in the plié squat and pivot back into the lunge position. Then, step forward. Repeat with the left leg.

Watch a swivel lunge example.

2. Sliding Side Lunge

Combine gliding discs, towels or any other sliding apparatus with your side lunges to make your inner and outer thighs scream. The more pressure you put into the leg that is sliding in the lunge, the more you will feel it! And, much like the swivel lunge, if you eliminate rest between repetitions and consider adding extra weight to the lunge, you’ll increase the benefit.

Using a disc under the ball of your right foot, begin to perform a squat with your left leg as you press into the disc with the ball of your right foot and slide the leg out to the side. Be sure to keep weight in the heel of the squatting leg, keep your chest up, and squeeze everything as you return to the start position. Repeat to the left. Begin with a small range of motion so you can get back up! Once you get the hang of it, experiment with sliding the leg out, staying in the lunge, and lifting the foot off of the disc for a moment (all weight in the squatting leg); return your foot to the disc and stand up.

Watch a sliding side lunge example.

3. Squat with Ball Squeeze

Squats are one of the best overall exercises for quads and hamstrings. But, adding a small ball between the thighs will give you an even bigger bang for your buck by helping you target the inner thighs simultaneously.

Place and hold a small, soft ball or yoga block between your thighs, right above the knees. Sink your hips back as you bend your knees, as if you are going to sit in a chair. Be sure to keep weight in your heels, engage the core, and keep your chest lifted. Experiment with your range of motion–the lower you go, the more you will feel it. You could add weight to the exercise for increased intensity or stay put at the bottom of the squat as you lift your heels off the floor; then return your heels to the floor and stand up.

Watch a squat with ball squeeze example.

4. Bridge with Ball Squeeze

You can never do enough bridges! Not only are they amazing for the backside (specifically the upper portion of the backside of the legs, as well as the glutes), but bridges are equally amazing for strengthening the lower back and helping with core stability. Much like the squat with ball squeeze, adding a ball to the bridge will help activate the inner thighs and get deeper into the core muscles.

Lie on your back with knees bent, feet about hip-distance apart, and a ball placed between your thighs right above the knees. With your arms out to the side with palms up or down, press through your heels to lift your hips up. Then lower down and repeat.

See a bridge with ball squeeze example.

5. Clamshell

The clamshell is the perfect “finisher.” This exercise will attack the outside of your thighs, as well as the outside of your hips. If you choose the right resistance band, your legs will be quivering. Don’t have a band? No problem. Use your hand to apply gentle pressure to the top thigh and be your own worst enemy!

With a resistance band just above the knees, lie on your side with knees bent and stacked. Your heels should be in line with your glutes and remain together throughout the exercise. Keep your hips facing forward as you lift your top knee against the tubing. Lower to the starting position and repeat.

See a clamshell example.

Take a pic or video of yourself doing this workout Nov. 12-30, 2015 and share it with the #BurnTheTurkey hashtag to help feed America!

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Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is a fitness business and programming consultant who has helped impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn®, Power Systems, ACE, and BOSU® over the last 20 years. As an experienced educator and certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. Fable, a member of the ACE Board of Directors, is the owner of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool, and Balletone®.