The Complete Guide To Building Thunder Thighs

Young woman doing stretches after running workout. Active lifestyle.

Key Points

• Muscle gains come from breaking down your muscles with challenging workouts and rebuilding them bigger than before.

• To support your body's muscle growth and get bigger thighs, you must eat in a caloric surplus.

• Protein is the building block for muscles, so adjusting your macronutrient consumption will help you make gains.

Everybody’s fitness goals are different. Some want to sculpt and tone, some want to run a faster mile, and some want to bulk up — whether a full-body bulk or to get bigger thighs

Each goal has a different path to achievement, but with hard work, discipline, and a plan, expect to marvel as your body slowly but surely changes before your eyes. If you aim to get bigger thighs, you’ve come to the right place. 

From nutrition to recovery and the workouts in between, this article has everything you need to know about growing your thighs and feeling powerful while you do it. 

Body Basics: Knowing Your Muscles

Before you dive into a new gym routine, you should have a basic understanding of the muscles that power your body. The better you understand your body, the better you’ll be able to read and respond to its needs throughout the process. 

The Muscle Types

When most people think of muscles, they’re thinking more specifically of skeletal muscles, which you can flex. However, there are three major muscle types: cardiac, smooth, and skeletal:

  1. Cardiac Muscle: As the word “cardiac” suggests, cardiac muscle is specific to your heart. It’s found in your heart, and its contractions keep your heart beating. 

  2. Smooth Muscle: One way of remembering smooth muscle is that it’s the type of muscle that keeps your internal organs running smoothly. Smooth muscles are the muscles in your bladder, gastrointestinal tract, blood vessels, and other organs and systems of your body. 

  3. Skeletal Muscle: This is the type of muscle you likely came to read about today. Skeletal muscles are the muscles that connect to your bones. The muscles and bones comprise the musculoskeletal system, also called the locomotor system (because you employ it to move around). These muscles enable you to lift things, walk, and run. When done right, you can grow them by working out. Unlike cardiac and smooth muscles, skeletal muscles are voluntary, meaning you can control your skeletal muscles and consciously flex and utilize them. 

Woman does squats for thigh growth on yoga mat at home

What Makes Up Skeletal Muscles?

Skeletal muscles come in all shapes and sizes, from the tiny muscles in your ear to the larger muscles in your thighs. Also called “striated muscles,” skeletal muscles appear striped under a microscope (and in your typical health textbook images). That striped appearance is due to the thousands of elastic fibers comprising skeletal muscles.

Depending on size, skeletal muscles contain varying amounts — hundreds, even thousands in more significant muscle areas — of elastic fibers bundled together and wrapped in a connective tissue called perimysium. They also contain blood vessels and nerves, allowing them to contract under your control. 

A more microscopic study of the makeup of skeletal muscles would get into the smaller bundles of fibers and different kinds of connective tissues within the larger muscle. However, you’re here to grow muscles, not perform surgery.

Here’s how it’s done:

Growing Your Muscles: How It Works

In order to grow your muscles, you must first damage the muscle fibers within them.

Yes, you read that right.

Muscle hypertrophy is damaging — or challenging, for a better word — your muscles, then building them back up more prominent than before. In short, when you apply resistance to your muscles, often via weight training, you damage these fibers by putting them under immense stress.

Then, your body kicks into gear to repair them. This post-workout period of rest and recovery is actually when your muscles grow. Your body responds to the stress you’ve placed on your muscles by fusing more muscle fibers in the reparation process, creating new fiber strands larger than the ones they replace. 

It’s a great example of adaptation: After experiencing new stress levels and damage to your muscle fibers, your body adapts by rebuilding your muscles slightly bigger than before, enabling them to withstand increased stress (heavier weight, higher resistance, more repetitions) next time. 

If you’re hitting the gym to grow your thighs (or any muscle), that concept of adaptation comes into play, but in gym terms, it’s called a “progressive overload.” 

Get Bigger Thighs: The Workouts

Unfortunately, you can’t get bigger thighs overnight. You can’t even get bigger thighs in a week. Growing your muscles takes time, focus, and dedication. However, if you stick to a plan in and out of the gym, you can begin to see changes in weeks. And as any fitness fanatic will tell you, those changes are addicting. There’s no better motivation than looking in the mirror and seeing a more muscular body than before. 

To get bigger thighs, you have to participate in some form of weight training. That’s the bottom line; just doing cardio won’t get you the thighs you’re after unless that cardio has an impressive amount of consistently-increasing resistance for your leg muscles. 

In order to make your body stronger and your muscles bigger, you have to force your muscles to adapt to higher stress. That brings us to the most effective strategy to get bigger thighs: a progressive overload. 

How To Grow Your Thighs With a Progressive Overload

A progressive overload is a weight training strategy in which you progressively increase the weight you lift, effectively forcing your body to keep building your muscles bigger when it repairs them during recovery. 

Without a progressive overload, even if you’re new to weight lifting and have many gains to make, you’ll eventually plateau and hit a maintenance phase. Initially, your muscles grow as you start a new workout routine simply because you’re putting more stress on them than they’re used to. They’ll break down, then build up bigger. But without adding more weight, more repetitions, more sets, or altering the movement to increase difficulty, your body eventually stops needing to build your muscles up bigger, as you're no longer challenging them as much. Your muscles continue to break down each workout, but if you’ve plateaued, they build up to the same level as before when you recover. 

With progressive overloads, challenging your body week after week is the name of the game.

However, increasing the amount of weight you lift isn’t the only way to challenge your body in a way that forces it to continue adapting. You can do a progressive overload in a few different ways.

Man does unweighted squat in his bedroom

Ways To Progressive Overload

This article uses barbell squats as an example to explain some of the numerous ways you can utilize a progressive overload to grow your thighs.

Let’s assume you begin by squatting 100 pounds (lbs) (just an example). That’s the 45 lbs barbell with 22.5 lbs on each side.

Once you have your beginning weight, you can manipulate a few variables as part of a progressive overload. However, as a beginner, don’t manipulate more than one variable at a time; this can make your progress harder to keep track of as you gauge how to increase the challenge on your muscles incrementally. As you advance, you can combine changes in variables, but keep it simple at first. 

1. Increased Weight

Increasing your weight typically comes to mind when planning a progressive overload. Each week, you increase the weight you lift by a small amount; a standard increment is increasing by up to 10 percent, depending on where you start and what muscle group you’re working.

If you want to make things a little easier, you can aim to add 5-10 lbs to the bar each week rather than doing the math. 

In consideration of the squatting example above, your workouts might look like this: 

Week 1: Three sets of eight reps at 100 lbs

Week 2: Three sets of eight reps at 110 lbs 

Week 3: Three sets of eight reps at 120 lbs

When increasing weight, you keep the number of reps and sets the same each week; the only variable you change is the weight on the bar. 

The issue you could run into when increasing weight is that, eventually, you may reach weights you simply cannot — or do not want to — exceed. Keep your limits in mind when it comes to growing your thighs; too much weight can result in bad form, leading to injury. If you’re approaching your limit, move on to another variable. 

2. Increased Number of Reps

Reps refer to a single repetition of an exercise; in a set, you complete a set of a certain number of reps before resting. Rather than increasing weight each week, add one or two reps to each set. 

If you’re increasing reps, your squatting routine might be:

Week 1: Three sets of six reps at 100 lbs

Week 2: Three sets of eight reps at 100 lbs

Week 3: Three sets of 10 reps at 100 lbs

3. Increased Number of Sets

Another way to challenge your muscles is to keep the weight the same each week but progressively add more sets of that exercise. This sometimes means you’ll be doing fewer reps per set — especially once you work your way up to six or seven sets of an exercise, but it all has the same effect: you’re challenging your muscles a little more each week.

Week 1: Three sets of five reps at 100 lbs

Week 2: Four sets of five reps at 100 lbs

Week 3: Five sets of five reps at 100 lbs

Each of the above examples stops at three weeks, but you can keep going for another couple of weeks or switch up the exercise to challenge your muscles in a new way. The following section contains other leg exercise options.

Man crouches down to pick up kettlebell for squats

4. Tempo Lifts (Time Under Tension)

This method adds a new challenge for your muscles, not necessarily by increasing the amount or intensity of your lifts, but by increasing the time your muscles are under stress. In tempo training, each rep takes longer, a pre-determined amount of time, including negatives, holds, or both. 

A rep that requires a "five-second negative" means that you take five seconds to go from your starting position to the “bottom” of that exercise. In the case of a squat, you count to five and descend steadily throughout those five seconds, landing in your squat position at the end of the negative. Negatives are slow, controlled motions that require concentration and discipline.

A rep requiring a hold means you hold that position at the bottom for a predetermined number of seconds. Sometimes tempo lifts require you to do both in one rep — a negative and a hold at the bottom — before exploding back up to your starting position. 

Some background reading on the purpose of tempo sets and how you can successfully (and safely) utilize them to grow your muscles is always a good idea before getting started. 

These are just four examples of how to progressive overload, but the list goes on. Switching up your workouts so your body builds your muscles back bigger each time is critical. 

Exercises To Grow Your Thighs

Your thighs have three main muscle sets: your quadriceps, which are above your knee on the front of your thigh; your hamstrings, which span the back of your thigh; and your adductor muscles, which are on the inside of your thigh and the muscles at play when you squeeze your legs together. 

With three muscle sets comes a wide range of exercises to grow your thighs, whether in the gym or at home. Some exercises will isolate one of those muscle sets, while some can work two or all three at a time. 

Some of the most common exercises to grow your thighs are:

  • Squats

  • Lunges

  • Deadlifts

  • Hip thrusts

  • Step-ups

This concise, general list of exercises will work the muscles in your thighs (and glutes, too, for some of them). However, each of these exercises has numerous variations that can challenge you differently.

Man squats with oympic barbell

For example, here are some options for squat variations:

• Front squats

• Back squats

• Sumo squats

• Goblet squats

• Barbell squats

Believe it or not, the list goes on. There are so many ways you can manipulate these exercises that a leg workout section really deserves its own article (like this one that’s specifically dumbbell leg workouts). 

Don't count yourself out if you don’t have a gym membership. Get a set of dumbbells, and you can get pretty far with home workouts without touching a squat rack. 

Eating for Strength

It’s time to talk nutrition. What you eat is just as important as your workouts for gaining muscle.

There are two keys to eating for thigh gains: eating a caloric surplus and increasing your protein intake. 

How a Caloric Surplus Helps You Make Gains

To grow your muscles, you need to feed your muscles. Experts always say that fitness transformations start in the kitchen. It doesn’t matter how much you lift or run; you won’t see the transformations you want to see unless you eat for your goals. 

To gain muscle, you need to eat in a caloric surplus. This means you must eat more calories daily than the minimum amount your body needs (maintenance calories) to keep you at an energy equilibrium. 

If you only eat maintenance calories, your body will have nothing to draw from when it rebuilds your muscles after a workout. You've used up all of the calories you’ve consumed that day, and there’s nothing extra to tack on as additional muscle fibers for next time. 

If you eat in a surplus, extra calories are left over to build your muscles back bigger than before after a workout. That makes sense, right? 

Calculators to help you determine how many calories you need to eat each day to put you in a surplus are free and available online. They take your height, weight, age, gender, and activity level into account to calculate your number of maintenance calories. 

To determine how many calories you should add to reach a healthy caloric surplus, calculate 10 percent to 20 percent of your maintenance calorie number, and add that amount to your daily consumption. Those extra calories are your surplus, and they’re your key to gaining muscle. 

Woman's legs focused on butt and thighs

Macros Matter: Increasing Your Protein Intake

Eating in a caloric surplus for muscle gains doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want, so don’t head straight to the candy aisle. Instead, pay attention to your macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fats) if you’re eating for gains. 

According to the National Institute of Health, the average person should aim for a macronutrient breakdown of 45-65 percent carbohydrates, 25-35 percent fat, and 10-30 percent protein. However, if you’re building muscle, that breakdown looks a little different.

“To gain the most muscle with the least amount of fat … I like to use the calorie breakdown of 40 percent carbohydrates, 30 percent protein, and 30 percent fat,” author, speaker, and nutritional consultant with years of health, fitness, and nutrition expertise Mike Roussell, PhD, explains.

Roussell’s macronutrient breakdown for building muscle highlights one of the significant macronutrient changes necessary for building muscle: swapping out some of those carbohydrates for extra protein. 

Fitness experts often refer to protein as the building block for muscle and strength, while carbohydrates fuel endurance. Both are necessary (as are fats), but if you’re training for bigger and stronger thighs, you should focus a little extra on protein. 

A common recommendation for muscle gains is to consume 0.7 to one gram of protein per pound of body weight. This means if you weigh 150 lbs, you want to eat a minimum of 105 grams of protein per day, and a maximum of 150, to grow your muscle. 

Good sources of protein for building muscle include the following:

  • Meats: Depending on your goals, some meats are better than others. If you want lean muscle building, stick with leaner meats like poultry. If you’re just looking to bulk up, any meat will work; the extra fat and calories from beef and pork work in your favor. 

  • Fish: Many kinds of fish are excellent sources of lean protein. Salmon also adds healthy fats. 

  • Eggs: Not just for breakfast, hard boil or throw an egg or two into a smoothie for protein.

  • Dairy: This depends on your body’s tolerance to dairy, but Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are convenient snacks loaded with protein, and you can opt for varying fat percentages depending on your goals.

  • Tofu or Tempeh: If you're not into eating animal protein, these vegan options still get the job done.

While you should aim to get as much of your protein as possible from food, protein supplements like whey protein and various vegan proteins (pea protein, hemp protein) are convenient ways to pack another 20 grams of protein into your daily intake. 

If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, tofu, tempeh, and protein supplements are your best friends in keeping your macros in check. Legumes like nuts and chickpeas are also helpful, though they don't pack in nearly as much protein as the other sources.

Man concentrates while on leg press machine at gym

The Bottom Line

Between the progressive overload workouts and the focus on nutrition, gaining muscle may seem intimidating. However, here’s a little secret: It’s addicting. 

Especially in the beginning, it’ll come down to discipline and organization. Planning your workouts is necessary; planning your meals isn’t as necessary, but it certainly helps ensure you reach your macronutrient goals. 

The time it takes to see results will vary depending on your starting point, body, genetics, and commitment level — among other variables. Once you see results, though, it’s hard to stop. 

Soon enough, you’re living a new lifestyle and loving the new you (and your thick thighs).

To get started, subscribe to FitnessCorner for workout tips, diet plans, and more. 

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