Many women want to find the best outer thigh exercises, but I'm not sure all women understand what they are saying when they say they want to work the outer thigh.
I prefer to use the term outer hip, because I think it is more accurate than outer thigh. There are small muscles on the outside of the hip (gluteus medius and gluteus minimus), and these muscles pull the leg out to the side.
These small glute muscles only go down to the top of the thigh bone (femur).
Most of the outer thigh is actually part of the quadriceps which are mostly on the front of the thigh.
The outside part of the quadriceps actually starts on the back of the femur (thigh bone) and wraps around to the front of the thigh.
I mention this distinction because the quadriceps works to straighten the knee. So depending on where you are pointing on the outside part of the thigh, you would perform different exercises to work those muscles.
If you want to work the muscles at the top part of the outer thigh (gluteus medius and minumus), you would do exercises that emphasize moving the legs out to the side. If you want to work the muscles at the middle and bottom part of the outer thigh (quadriceps) you would do exercises that straighten the knee.
Functional Training is a popular philosophy in fitness. It simply means that the exercise you choose should be closely related to the tasks or actions you do in everyday or sports activities.
Generally, speaking you will get more functional benefit when you don't use machines.
In addition to moving your leg out the the side, the outer thigh/ hip muscles also stabilize your legs when you are standing up. And they work even harder when you are standing on one leg.
So you could choose an isolation exercise like the seated outer thigh machine, but you will only work one area at a time.
Or you can choose a multiple joint leg exercise like lunges. And with lunges, you will work the outer hip, outer thigh, front of the thigh, back of the thigh, glutes (butt), and calf.
In addition, with lunges, you'll also work on balance and core stability, and you'll burn so many more calories because of all the muscles you'll use at once.
If you want to use an outer thigh exercise machine, that's okay, but you should also incorporate standing leg exercises in your workout.
Lunges and squats will do more to help you tone your thighs and butt, than the inner thigh and outer thigh machines.
Okay, I hope that helps to add a little clarity to the conversation about outer thigh exercises. Your hip muscles will pull your leg out to the side and the quads will straighten your knee.
The great thing about standing exercises is that you work the hip and thigh together for more benefit.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Charles PT/PT