If your thighs never look sculpted, no matter how hard you work out, you may be making the common mistake of overrelying on lunges and squats. These classic moves directly hit the large quad muscles and neglect all the other, smaller ones. Strengthening the quad is not a bad thing, but when you overdevelop it, your hip flexibility can suffer, which can lead to knee pain. These five moves put a spotlight on smaller, and often weaker, thigh muscles, forcing them to participate. The result: stronger, sleeker, and more balanced and flexible upper legs.

Do 30 reps of each move in the series on one side, then repeat the sequence on the other side. Don’t forget your 30 to 60 minutes of cardio six times a week.

Bridge hold with alternating leg kicks

Sit with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and palms on the floor next to either side of butt. Lift hips and extend left arm up (A). Kick right leg out to the side with inner thigh facing up (B). Lower right foot to the floor, then kick left leg straight up (C). Return to “A” and repeat.

Inner thigh tap-out

Sit with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and palms on the floor next to either side of butt. Lift hips and raise left arm. Extend right leg out diagonally to the side and tap floor (A). Bring right leg back in, then cross right ankle over left (B). Return to “A” and continue tapping and crossing for 30 reps.

On-side leg pulse

Lie on left side with torso facedown, palms on the floor, elbows bent, and left knee pulled into chest. Extend right leg straight out and lift it about 6 inches off the floor (A). Lift right leg even more, until it is about parallel with torso (B), then lower back to “A.” Continue pulsing for 30 reps.

Step-up Kick and rest

Start in Child’s pose (A). Lift up into a kneeling lunge, placing left foot flat on the floor; let arms hang at sides (B). Push into left foot to come to standing, then immediately kick up right leg, toes pointed (C). Reverse motion back to “A” and repeat.

Quick-tempo side kick

Kneel, then lean to the left, placing left palm on the floor, extending right arm straight up, and lifting right knee off the floor (A). Kick right leg out to the side (B). Return to “A” and repeat.

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