Guest post by Evolve MMA, Asia’s premier championship brand for martial arts. It has the most number of World Champions on the planet. Named as the #1 ranked martial arts organization in Asia by CNN, Yahoo! Sports, FOX Sports, Evolve MMA is the top rated BJJ gym in Singapore.
The thigh muscles are often the most noticeable part of our lower body, especially when seen upfront. In many instances, having a sculpted set of thighs will get heads turned, considering the rarity of seeing an average person with well-trained thighs. However, this can be commonly found among martial artists. They are known to have very sculpted thighs and it’s not because of the frequency of training, but the method of training. The muscles in the thigh consist of three groups:
- The front (anterior) includes the quads that’s one of the largest muscles in the body and the main function is to straighten and stabilize the knee.
- The medial or the hip adductors that function to help the thigh with rotation and movement towards the midline.
- The back (posterior) includes the hamstring that’s responsible for hip extension and knee flexion (bending).
It is first essential to warm up and stretch the thigh muscles before we train them. Stretching improves your mobility, flexibility and reduces the chances of encountering muscles crams or aches during training. Let’s start with 5 ways to stretch those stiff thigh muscles:
1) Butterfly Stretch
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and pinned to the ground. Keep the soles of your foot together as you push down your knees while keeping your back straight. An easier way of doing the butterfly stretch is by grabbing both of your feet while keeping them together.
2) Forward And Lateral Leg Swings
Forward and lateral leg swings work all three muscle groups of the thigh. Start by standing firm with your feet near the center of your body. Find something firm to maintain your balance and start swinging one of your legs laterally to work the medial muscles of the thigh. After swinging both legs, stand firm and swing one of your legs forward and backward to work the anterior and posterior muscles.
3) Lateral Lunges
Stand wider than shoulder-width apart. Slowly bend a knee to one side of your body as you keep the other leg straightened to the floor. Do it alternately while maintaining a neutral back position.
4) Quad Stretch
The basic quad stretch is done while standing. Grab one of your feet and pull it back until it reaches your glutes. Hold it for about 10-20 seconds on both sides.
5) Supine Hamstring Stretch
Lay on the floor, pull one of your legs and grab your hamstring with both hands while stretching it. Hold this position for about 30 secs.
5 Exercises That Strengthens Your Thigh Muscles
After a good stretch, let’s look at how to strengthen the thigh muscles. We need exercises that incorporate both flexion and extension of the knee and hip joints. Because each individual’s body is made different, hence, it is essential to address how to perform these exercises accurately to avoid any injuries. Let’s look at the 5 exercises that help strengthen and sculpt that asymmetrical look for your thighs.
The deadlift is an excellent compound exercise that works your thigh muscles. It’s an exercise that benefits the entire body, specifically the quads, hamstrings, and back. Depending on the variations, the conventional deadlift uses more of the posterior muscles of the thigh rather than the sumo and trap bar deadlift, both of which focus more on quad-dominant movements.
- Conventional Deadlift – The conventional deadlift is performed with feet positioned shoulder-width apart, pointing forward, and shins close to the bar.
- Sumo Deadlift – The sumo deadlift, on the other hand, is performed with the feet positioned slightly wider than your hands, gripping the bar slightly closer than shoulder-width apart to compensate for the wide positioning of the foot.
- Trap Bar Deadlift – Similar to the sumo deadlift, the trap bar deadlift also focuses on a quad-dominant movement. It requires you to stay upright throughout the whole movement because of the position of the hex bar.
Lunges are great exercises to incorporate into your thigh workouts as it targets both the quads and hamstrings. Lunges can be performed with your bodyweight or together with any different types of free weights such as kettlebells, plates, dumbbells, or barbells.
This exercise is performed by bending the lead leg to about a 90-degree angle which works the quads, and as the rear knee dip near the ground, pushing yourself back up causes more hamstring activation.
Lunges not only help strengthen but also stretch your thighs and lower body, so if you’re feeling a little stiff, try performing a lunge or two, it’ll help loosen those stiff thighs a little.
Squats and deadlifts are among the most well-known compound movements that work the thigh muscles. Squatting is a natural movement, but its benefits can be maximized by utilizing free weights and other squat variations, such as the front and back squat.
The front and back squat both work the quads and the hamstrings, together with other muscles such as the glutes, lower back, and core. The difference between the front and back squat is that, although both squat variations work the hamstring and the quads, the front squat utilizes a more quad-dominant movement and is performed with the barbell at the clavicular portion. This would require the body to stay upright, maintaining balance.
The low bar back squat, on the other hand, has better activation of the hamstrings, along with the posterior chain. High bar and low bar are two ways to perform the back squat. Similar to the front squat, the high bar back squat targets the anterior muscles of the thigh more.
4) Box Jumps
The box jump is a plyometric exercise that targets the anterior and posterior muscles of the thigh. This explosive motion is a great way to train the thigh muscles while not only increasing your speed, endurance, strength, and power, it also elevates your heart rate, providing you a burner effect.
Running is one of the classic and most effective ways to train the thighs. It is a widely known cardiovascular exercise that can help you build endurance and strengthen your thigh muscles when performed on more challenging platforms such as an inclined hill or treadmill.
Training the thigh muscles not only helps us perform better in sports but also in other aspects of our daily lives. Training gives us better mobility, flexibility, strength, and power. Like any muscle group, intentionally training and performing these exercises helps strengthen the thigh and lowers our chances of encountering lower-body injuries.
Not only will you feel more confident, but you’ll also not feel that burning effect anymore after walking a flight of stairs! Try incorporating some of these exercises and see how it benefits you!