You’ve done more squats and leg extensions than you can count, but no matter how hard you try, you just can’t firm up your thighs. It might be your genetics unfortunately, some of us are just born with more fat cells and fewer muscle cells than Jill Michaels, says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., director of exercise research at Quincy College. But even if that’s the case, don’t kiss the dream of dynamite thighs goodbye. Avoid these seven common mistakes, and you’ll sculpt some gorgeous curves.
You’re being unrealistic
You can’t resize your thighs with just a few workouts. “People think they can go to the gym for two weeks and see all the muscles in their legs,” says Thrive trainer Sean De Wispelaere, “but it doesn’t work like that.” If you strength-train your lower body three times a week, expect to start seeing changes in about four to six weeks, he says.
Your diet isn’t very thigh friendly
“To really change your body, the first thing you need to attack is your nutrition,” says De Wispelaere. “Protein, vegetables, fruit, and good fat—if it’s not one of those things, don’t eat it.” Protein is vital: It builds muscle while raising metabolism, so you shed fat faster.
You’re not doing enough cardio
If you’re training your lower body three times a week and still not seeing any definition, add some cardio. Don’t have enough time to exercise that much? Try spinning—the pedaling tones legs while combusting 420 to 780 calories per hour. (Still feel like you don’t have enough time to see results? With Prevention’s Fit In 10 DVD, you will lose weight and transform your body—all in just 10 minutes a day!) Another alternative is stair climbing. Walking up any incline spikes heart rate and recruits 25 percent more muscle fibers than strolling the flats.
You’re not doing Clockwork Lunges
This simple, at-home, no-equipment exercise tones the legs, butt, and thighs, and it’s great for getting rid of cellulite. In fact, the older you get, the more important it is to regularly do moves like this one. “As women age, they lose muscle,” says Westcott. “As that muscle layer becomes thinner, weaker and less firm, the overlying fat layer loses its stable base, and it crinkles and wrinkles.” Result: Your thighs pucker up. Do these lunges like clockwork.
You’re ignoring the rest of your leg muscles
Most of us—especially walkers, runners, and cyclists—already have well-developed quadriceps muscles. But to get the slim, sculpted leg look you want, don’t forget the hamstrings and inner thighs. And it’s not just about aesthetics: “If you’re not working every muscle equally, you’ll tighten your hip flexors and put yourself at risk for knee injuries,” says Lauren Boggi, founder of Lithe Method workouts. For the hammies, do glute bridges. For the inner thighs, do these two ballet-inspired moves.