Thigh thickness is closely tied to genetics, but you can build strength in your thigh muscles through various exercises.

Our bodies are uniquely made just for us, and we all come in different shapes and sizes. In particular, thigh size can vary greatly from person to person.

From genetics to lifestyle, there are many reasons why your thighs and body will look different from someone else’s. While your thighs are beautiful the way they are, you may be interested in making them larger to enhance performance or simply to change your aesthetic.

If you’re looking to build stronger, thicker thighs, this article explains how and provides 7 exercises to try.

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The size of your thighs is mostly determined by your bone structure (genetics), as well as the proportion and distribution of both fat and muscle mass.

Your thighs are made of (1):

  • your femur (thigh bone)
  • muscle (e.g., quadriceps, hamstrings, adductors)
  • connective tissue (e.g., fascia, ligaments, tendons)
  • stored fat
  • arteries and veins
  • nerves

Depending on your genetics and hormone levels, you may store more or less fat in your thighs and buttocks. The two main body types include gynoid (pear shaped) and android (apple shaped) (2, 3).

Those with gynoid body types tend to store more fat and muscle in their thighs and buttocks, while those with android body types store more fat in the abdomen or stomach. Typically, cisgender females have higher gynoid fat storage due to higher estrogen levels (2, 3).

It’s important to note that you cannot choose where you store fat on your body. Instead, the main way to increase the size of your thighs is via building muscle, which you have more control over.


The size and shape of your thighs are mostly determined by your genetics (e.g., bone structure), fat distribution, and muscle mass.

Eating in a calorie surplus — more calories than your body burns in a day — will lead to weight gain and may help increase the size of your thighs.

That said, you cannot control where your body stores fat. If you’re genetically predisposed to storing fat in your stomach or upper body, you’ll likely store fat in these areas first.

Unless your goal is to gain weight overall, you’re better off focusing on building muscle mass. Strength training focusing on your quadriceps and hamstrings, as well as eating sufficient calories and protein, can help build greater muscle mass to increase the size of your thighs.

To grow muscle, be sure to get enough protein each day. For most people, this means aiming to consume 0.6–0.9 grams of protein per pound (1.4–2.0 grams per kilogram) per day and performing strength-training exercises (4, 5, 6, 7).

Finally, no single food type will help grow your thighs. If gaining fat or muscle mass is a goal for you, it’s best to focus on eating at a mild calorie surplus (10–20% more than your daily calorie needs) that comprises mostly whole, minimally processed foods (8).


Eating at a calorie surplus can help increase both muscle and fat mass in your thighs. Since you can’t choose where you store fat, it’s best to focus on building muscle mass via following a protein-rich diet and strength-training regimen.

The muscles of the thighs are some of your largest muscles. They’re usually divided into the front thighs and back thighs.

Your front thighs are better known as your quadricep muscles, which are four long and large muscles that help with knee extension (straightening your leg). These include the vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius, and rectus femoris (9, 10).

The back thighs are known as your hamstring muscles, which comprise three muscles that help with knee flexion (bending your leg). These include the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus (9, 11).

Other important muscles of the thighs include the sartorius, pectineus, gracilis, adductor longus and magnus, and iliopsoas, which help with various movements such as adduction (bringing the leg toward the body), knee flexion, and hip flexion (9, 10).

Finally, your gluteal muscles (gluteus maximus, medius, and minimus) are the largest muscle group and important for hip abduction and extension. Though technically part of the buttocks, your glutes work closely with your thigh muscles to help with movement (9, 10).

By paying attention to exercises that target these muscles, you can build muscle mass, which can help increase the overall size of your thighs.


Your thighs are made of many large and small muscles, such as the quadriceps and hamstrings. Targeting these muscles during strength training can help build strength and increase their size.

Gaining more muscle mass — also known as muscle hypertrophy — in your thigh muscles can increase their overall size.

For best results, most research suggests strength training specific muscle groups (e.g., quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes) 2–3 times per week allows for the greatest muscle hypertrophy. While everyone can build muscle, the extent of muscle gain is largely based on genetics (12).

For example, some people gain muscle more easily than others even when following the same exercise routine and eating plan. Also, those with longer limbs may still gain muscle mass, but it may appear smaller in size since the muscle is stretched out over a further distance.

Instead of focusing so much on the look of your thighs, it’s best to appreciate their function and strength, which come in all shapes and sizes.


The best way to increase muscle mass in your thighs is to perform strength training 2–3 times per week. That said, the extent of muscle growth, size, and overall appearance are largely dependent on genetics.

To build muscle mass and strengthen your thighs, you’ll want to engage in exercises that target the muscles from all angles.

What’s more, be sure to focus on progressive overload, which involves the gradual process of adding more volume and load through increased weight, sets, or reps. Progressive overload ensures you’re continuously challenging your muscles to promote muscle growth (13, 14).

Here are 7 exercises you can try.


Primary muscles worked: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, lower back, abdominals, calves

Squats are a classic go-to exercise to build muscle in your quads, hamstrings, and butt. If you’re new, start with a bodyweight squat, meaning without equipment, and gradually introduce more volume and resistance.

  1. Stand with your feet slightly more than hip-width apart. Your toes should be slightly pointed out, and your hands should be on your hips or in front of you.
  2. Slowly push your hips back into a sitting position while bending your knees.
  3. Continue to lower yourself until your thighs are parallel to the floor (your knees should be bent at a 90-degree angle). Then, slowly lift back up into the starting position.
  4. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

Once you’re able to easily perform all sets and reps with proper form, begin to introduce more resistance. Examples include wearing a loop band above your knees, holding a dumbbell with both hands, or performing a barbell squat.


Primary muscles worked: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, calves

Lunges are a great move for beginners and advanced exercisers. As you perfect this movement, you can add weight by holding a dumbbell in each hand.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Step forward with your left leg and bend your left knee until it reaches a 90–degree angle. Your right leg should also be bent at a 90-degree angle with your shin parallel to the floor.
  3. Next, push into the ground with your left foot to return to starting position. This is one rep.
  4. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

Contrary to popular belief, your knee can go slightly beyond your toes as you lunge, so long as you don’t experience any pain. Ensure a slow, controlled movement throughout the exercise.

Romanian deadlift with dumbbells

Primary muscles worked: hamstrings, glutes, lower back, abdominals, upper back

Though the name sounds intimidating, deadlifts are an excellent exercise for building your hamstrings.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart with a dumbbell in each hand and your palms facing your thighs. Be sure to engage your core and keep a neutral spine throughout the exercise.
  2. With a very slight bend in the knees, hinge your hips and slowly lower the dumbbells toward the ground, stopping when they reach around the middle of your shins.
  3. Then, slowly rise back to the starting position while focusing on using your hamstrings and glutes. This is one rep.
  4. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

If you’re new, start with a light weight and focus on perfecting your form to prevent a lower back injury. Be sure to hinge your hips back, which will help you utilize the correct muscles instead of relying on your lower back. As you perfect your form, increase the weight.

You can also use a barbell for this exercise. Instead of holding two dumbbells, place a weighted barbell on the floor in front of your shins. Grab the barbell with both hands, brace your core, and perform the same movement.

Leg press

Primary muscles worked: quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes

For this exercise, you will need access to a leg press machine.

  1. Sit down on the leg press machine with your back and head resting against the back of the seat. Place your feet flat on the footplate about hip-width apart. Your legs should be bent at a 90–degree angle with your knees and feet aligned.
  2. Holding the handgrips for support and engaging your core, slowly push the footplate with both feet until your legs are extended straight (avoid locking your knees) and hold for 2–3 seconds.
  3. Gradually bend your knees to return to the starting position. Your feet should remain flat on the footplate for the entire movement. This is one rep.
  4. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

If you’re new to this exercise, start with a light weight and gradually increase it over time. This will ensure you’re safely performing the movement to reduce the risk of injury.

Leg extension

Primary muscles worked: quadriceps

For this exercise, you will need a leg extension machine.

  1. Sit down on the leg extension machine with your shins underneath the padded bar and your knees bent. Grab the handrails for support and ensure your back is straight against the seat. This is the starting position.
  2. Slowly extend your legs until they’re fully straight and hold for 1–2 seconds. You should feel this mostly in your quads.
  3. Finally, slowly bend your knees to return to the starting position. This is one rep.
  4. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

To reduce the risk of injury, avoid hyperextending your knees and perform the movement slowly. If you feel a strain in your knees, this may be a sign you’re attempting too much weight or need to adjust your positioning.

Lateral lunge

Primary muscles worked: quadriceps, adductors, glutes, hamstrings, calves

Along with strengthening and building your thighs, the lateral lunge is a great functional movement to help you perform daily tasks with ease.

  1. Stand with your feet wider than hip-width apart and your toes straight facing straight ahead.
  2. Shift your weight over to your left leg, bend your left knee, and push your hips back into a half-sitting position. Your right leg should remain straight with your foot firmly on the ground.
  3. Push off of your left leg to straighten your knee. This is one rep. To make the exercise more challenging, you can push off of your left foot and come up to standing with both feet hip-distance apart.
  4. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps on each leg.

Bulgarian split squat

Primary muscles worked: quadriceps, adductors, glutes

Bulgarian split squats help improve your balance and build strength through single-leg movements.

  1. Stand 2 feet (about 60 cm) away from a step or bench, with your back facing it.
  2. Bend your right leg and place the top of your right foot on the bench or step. This will be your starting position.
  3. Next, bend your left knee and lower your body as low as you can go. Be sure to keep your chest, hips, and shoulders facing forward.
  4. Press down into your left heel to return to the starting position. This is one rep.
  5. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

For best results, incorporate various strength-training exercises with progressive overload to target all the muscles in your thighs. As you perfect your form, be sure to gradually add more volume and resistance to stimulate muscle growth.

Your thighs are important for daily movement. They get you from point A to point B, help you lift heavy objects, and support athletic performance.

Remember that the size of your thighs is largely based on genetics and muscle and fat distribution. Rather than concentrating on their size, you’re better off focusing on their function and strength, which are better indicators of health.

Therefore, hone in on performing strength-training exercises and eating a protein-rich diet to help build muscle, increase strength, and improve overall movement.

Your thighs are uniquely yours — it’s time to embrace them.