It seems every woman wants lean, strong thighs -- and they'll try any exercise to get them. The outer thigh muscles play an important role in the overall shape of the thigh as well as in hip function, and when they're out of shape, they can make your hips and upper thighs seems flabby and wide. But don't despair -- it is relatively easy to reshape your outer thighs with this simple exercise.
The outer thigh muscles, or abductors, run from the top rear of the hip, down the thigh, then across the knee to the shin bone. Together with the inner thigh muscles, or adductors, they keep your hips and knees stable when you're standing, walking, running and moving side to side. Whether you're standing still or moving on your feet, your abductors need to be strong to keep you balanced.
Weak outer thigh muscles make your hips weak, making it more difficult to walk, climb stairs, run, squat and lift your legs out to the side. It is very common for women to complain of knee pain when doing squats and lunges, climbing stairs and even walking -- and this is due in part to this outer-thigh weakness, too.
This skate lift is excellent for isolating and working those outer thigh muscles. Winter sports and recreational activities such as skating, skiing and curling require these pushing and lifting motions, so you'll be able to do them better. Plus, strengthening your outer thighs reduces stress on your joints and helps you keep your balance on slippery surfaces, reducing your risk of falls. Once you see the shape of your thighs improve, feel the increased strength in your leg muscles and gain greater stability and balance, you'll always include an outer thigh builder in your exercise regimen.
If you're new to this type of exercise, you can do the skate lift without a resistance tube -- just do double the number of recommended reps to get the right intensity. If you're ready for the challenge, use a light- to moderate-resistance tube or band. You can buy resistance tubes with handles for $15 to $20 each at fitness equipment stores or handleless resistance bands at physiotherapy or sports therapy clinics for less than $10. If you need a little help balancing, place your left hand on a counter or the back of a chair as you do the lift.
1. Pull the handle at one end of a resistance tube through the handle at the other end to create a loop; slip the loop over your left ankle and pull it fairly snug (if your tube doesn't have handles, tie it around your ankle). Place your right foot on the tube, about hip-distance away from your left foot, to create light resistance. Hold the handle of the tube in your right hand, pulling on it just enough to create light tension on the tube along your thigh. Place both hands on your hips to help you balance.
2. Stand tall, keeping your shoulders and hips even and parallel to the ground. Pull your abdominal muscles in to support your lower back. Bend your knees slightly and rotate your left hip outward (your knees and toes will face out). Lift your leg up and slightly back as if you're pushing off to skate. Don't use your torso, and keep your left leg long and straight. Keep your right knee bent throughout and your ankle flexed.
3. Hold at the top of the lift -- your foot will be between mid-shin and knee level -- until you feel the effort in your inner thigh, about three seconds or for a slow count of three.
4. Lower slowly to the starting position. If you can, don't touch the floor between repetitions. Do the recommended number of reps, then switch sides.
Repetitions and sets
Repeat slowly 10 to 15 times on each side, and do at least two sets of reps. Once you're comfortable performing the move, change the tempo for a greater challenge: exhale as you lift quickly for a count of one, inhale and hold at the top for a count of three, then breathe normally as you lower for a count of four. You can also increase the intensity by performing another set on each side, increasing the resistance by standing with your feet closer together on the tube and not letting the tube go slack at any time as you lift.