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Forget complex weight machines and endless leg lifts. To sculpt sleek, sexy thighs, you need to move in a new direction, says Violet Zaki, group fitness instructor at Equinox Fitness Club in New York City. Explosive, multidimensional exercises target your inner and outer thighs, quads, and hamstrings in one dynamic shot. Zaki's workout is a fusion of martial arts, yoga, dance, and strength training that can be done anywhere -- no equipment required! These moves demand focus and balance, engaging your core as well as your thighs.
Do this routine three or four times a week (12 to 15 reps and two or three sets per exercise, except where indicated) and you'll see stronger, slimmer thighs in four weeks. Now that's a kick.
You can't spot-reduce, but you can fine-tune your workouts to target common thigh problems like saddlebags and cellulite. Here are three highly effective solutions from Pasadena trainer Keli Roberts.The Problem: Saddlebags
The Solution: Kickboxing
Nothing burns calories like a barrage of side, roundhouse, and crescent kicks. Plus, these moves really blast the inner and outer thigh muscles.
The Solution: Stairclimbing
Climbing steps -- real steps or the Stepmill (rolling staircase) -- is a killer way to burn fat and give your thighs that smooth, sculpted swoop. For best results, walk two steps at a time and add lunges, squats, and deadlifts after your climb.
The Solution: Strength Training
Build muscle by working your thighs with several types of lunges: front, diagonal, side and pivoting. Hold a heavy set of dumbbells (enough to make you feel fatigued by the eighth or tenth rep). To balance your upper and lower leg muscles, do one-legged calf raises.
Burn calories and tone your thighs by making your favorite cardio workouts more leg intensive. "Focus on increasing resistance to work more of the leg muscles," says trainer Keli Roberts. Here are four ways to super-sculpt your thighs while blasting fat.Hill Repeats
Find a hill that takes about 2 minutes to sprint up. Warm up for 10 to 15 minutes, then sprint or speed-walk up 5 to 10 times, walking down slowly to let your heart rate recover. (On the treadmill: Run or walk for 2 minutes at a 9 or 10 percent incline; lower to zero and walk for 3 to 4 minutes.)Extended Climb on a Bike
Either on a Spinning bike or outdoors, pedal in the saddle with moderate to heavy resistance at 60 to 80 rpm for 15 to 20 minutes. Crank up to 80 to 90 rpm for 2 minutes at heavy resistance; recover at an easier resistance for 3 to 4 minutes. Do 5 to 8 times.In-line Skate Intervals
Find a moderately steep hill that takes about 2 minutes to skate up, sprinting as hard as you can. Turn around at the top and carefully skate down. Repeat 5 to 10 times.Stairclimbing Intervals
Warm up for 10 minutes, then go hard for 1 minute, walking 2 steps at a time or running. Recover for 1 minute at an easy pace. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
Originally published in Fitness magazine, July 2005.