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Squats can effectively work your lower body.
Women are prone to store fat in their lower bodies, making the thighs and hips a common problem area. Fortunately, exercise can help keep this area in tip-top shape. In addition to doing at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio a week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention favors full-body strength training on at least two days. This can include some of the best hip and thigh exercises to firm up your lower half.
Squat Down and Up
Often referred to as the best leg exercise, squats work multiple muscles and joints simultaneously for optimal muscle stimulation and caloric burn. This functional exercise also increases bone density in the hips, legs and spine, helping to prevent osteoporosis. Squats target your quadriceps and also engage your glutes, inner thighs, hamstrings and calves. They're done by standing upright, pushing your hips back, bending your knees and lowering down as if you are going to sit on a chair. During the motion, your knees should point in the same direction as your feet, and when they're at a 90-degree angle, push through your heels to return to the starting point. Do three sets of eight to 12 reps.
Lunge Those Legs
The lunge is a functional compound exercise that's right up there with squats, and it works your quads, glutes, hamstrings, inner and outer thighs, and calves. During lunges, you're in an upright stance. Take a big step forward with one foot, bend your knees and lower your hips. When your knees are at a 90-degree angle, push yourself back to the starting point, and step forward and lunge with your other foot. During the motion, the knee of your working leg should remain above your foot -- it shouldn't go beyond your toes. Finish three sets of eight to 12 repetitions.
Mimic a Clam
According to study results published in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, the clam exercise is one of the most effective exercises to target the muscles surrounding the hips, including the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus. During this exercise, you're lying on one side with a resistance band tied around your legs, just above your knees. Your hips are bent 45 degrees, and your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Raise your ankles off the floor while your lower knee remains on the floor. Move your top knee up and down as if you're mimicking a clamshell opening and closing. During the motion, keep your feet on top of each other. Complete three sets of eight to 12 reps.
Extend Your Hips
Lying hip extensions are another exercise that can strengthen your hips as well as prevent knee, back and hip pain. This exercise is done while lying face-up on the floor with one knee bent and the other leg straight. You then push off on the foot of your bent leg and raise your butt, back and straight leg off the floor, aligning your body. Hold the contraction in your glutes for two seconds before lowering back down. Do this eight to 12 times, and then switch legs and repeat the exercise. Complete up to three sets.