I was sparring with a friend and he is much bigger than me, like 95Kg, and he went for a big kick on my "vastus lateralis", shown below.

I want to know what kind of training I should do to harden this part of my thigh?

Thigh anatomy

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    Be aware that "hardening" exercises can come with a price later in life, although those are usually the technique that involve the bones, joints (including knuckles), or groin.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Jun 18, 2021 at 0:56

4 Answers 4


You can't actually "harden" soft tissue through conditioning. You can:

A) increase the muscle strength and density (though strength training), which gives you better ability to absorb/resist hits

B) condition yourself to work through the pain and numbness by regularly taking thigh hits.

Otherwise, it comes to do avoiding the hit, or doing some form of blocking.

Classic Muay Thai raises the knee and drops the elbow inside your leg to defend, which spreads the surface area at the cost of your balance. I've seen some Filipino fighting styles throw the opposite leg's knee to serve as the blocking surface - which can be really dangerous to the attacker's leg if you're quick enough to read and get it.

Many modern fighters raise the knee slightly to give some tension to the muscle to resist and try to get some minor deflection. Many MMA fighters turn the hips to try to spread the impact across the front of both thighs instead - the drawback here is that sometimes the attackers' foot can slide up into your groin.

Of course, all of these are done in conjunction with the strength training and pain conditioning I mentioned.

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    Two things here don't seem right. You might increase muscle density on the abdomen to protect the internal organs from damage but I don't think this applies to the thigh. Second the attacks to muscles are more damaging if the muscle is in tension. So I don't think this is what modern fighters are doing when they lift their knee.
    – Huw Evans
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 7:45
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    Against thigh hits people are mostly looking to avoid the "dead leg" feeling from the nerve getting struck. Tensing the muscle means more force has to happen to actually get to that nerve, even if the muscle takes more bruising in the process. Lifting the knee in any fashion requires muscle activation - tension. I don't think it's a particularly GREAT choice for dealing with roundhouses, but the question is about taking the hits, and this is a common response. If you think this is bad information, please downvote my answer.
    – Bankuei
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 16:40
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    The nerve in question is very close to surface. It's also muscle used for standing rather than lifting the leg. I agree they lift the leg but I would say this is to take the weight off it and remove tension from the muscle. If you lift the leg then hit the point and then stand on the leg and hit the point again you will see what I mean.
    – Huw Evans
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 16:50
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    Lift your knee. This activates quads. Slight outward turn of knee - quads are now the hitting surface, and tensed, not the side of the leg. Due to the angle of the impact, people CAN still force their way through to the nerve, especially if you aren't strong enough to maintain the angle. Not a great solution but one people do a lot. If you do this fully, you have the Muay Thai defense which either aims to take the strike on the shin or have the force slide up the (now) angled thigh, reducing the impact greatly.
    – Bankuei
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 17:03
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    Ah that does make sense. I thought you meant lift the knee to tense the vastus lateralis. But if you lift and angle to take it on the quad then yes the tensed muscle helps. If you clarify this ill upvote. I thought there must be some confusion.
    – Huw Evans
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 17:16

You can train to endure the pain better but that's about it. Getting hit in the thigh will always hurt and will often cause you to fall over. It is also questionable whether conditioning is actually a good idea as it basically equates to damaging the nerves beyond repair.

Really it depends why you train. Self defense? Probably not worth it. Competition? Depends on the rules.

To deaden the nerve endings you need to be hit repeatedly in the area in question with a blunt hard object. For the face this is too dangerous but it should be fine for the thigh.

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    actually it was in a competition the guy was 95kg and me 71, he went full force and i was crippled by the pain, after that I couldn't do much, he went in for a second and third hit, and that was it, so I need to train for competition. Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 13:45
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    Ok. I would still recommend learning to improve your dodges and footwork so you don't get hit there so much but if you really want to go the conditioning route that is how it is done..
    – Huw Evans
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 13:51
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    How about sqauts and horse stance exercises? will that help ? Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 18:11
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    In a word no. That makes your legs stronger but that's not the issue here. There is a nerve on the outside of the muscle that responds to being hit. the size/strength of the muscle is pretty much irrelevant. You can't cover that nerve with muscle.
    – Huw Evans
    Commented Aug 7, 2016 at 18:19
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    Your competition doesnt have weight classes? 24k (~53 lbs) is a massive weight difference for a contact sparring competition. (Unless you are frank dux facing chong li)
    – JohnP
    Commented Aug 8, 2016 at 20:58

The other questions here answer the intention of the question quite well: Don't take lowkicks if you can avoid it. No matter the muscles, a well-performed lowkick can be crippling.

If you just want hard upper legs / thighs, I may be able to help, as I happen to have that (people often complain about hurting themselves when kicking me, due to that. Been called having iron legs, as a result).

I got 3 ways for it, the first one mostly being available only when growing up. I suppose it will still have effect when you're older, but to a lesser extend. The other 2 need to be done in combination of each other.

  1. Ride a bike. I'm not talking the bikes you see in cyclist races. I'm talking a regular mom and pops bike. Ride it anywhere, as fast as you can, up to the point that slightly sore upper legs seem like a normal state of being. That's what I did when I was a teenager (it was either that or walking), and it must have laid the ground works.
  2. Horse stance helps alot, too. If your style has eg. 3 basic stances, including horse stance, every other day do exercises like 1x60 seconds horse stance, 2x60 seconds the 2nd stance (left for 60 seconds, then right for 60 seconds), same for the third stance, then horse stance for 60 seconds again. Do it as low as you can, really pushing down.
  3. Running, for every day you're not doing stances. The stances typically will make your legs feel heavy the day after. Running will counteract that, making them feel light again while firming them up.

Again, all this is personal experience. Your milage may vary. Also, I can't stress it enough: even with hard, strong thighs, don't be daft and take lowkicks like candy.


I am having the same problem. I am old (51) and slow but I don't mind pain in my ribs, but by thighs turn to granite after one karate roundhouse kick mawashi-keri.

My only means of defence is to get close in and keep close in if I can since the round house kick requires some distance.

A Kyokushin karate friend recommends the standard shin raising defence made more speedy by, as it were, jumping with one foot, tapping/springing off the ball of the foot rather than just raising the leg, but I can't seem to read my opponents legs quick enough. Once one adult has kicked my thigh, then children can cripple my stiff-karate-thigh with the next blow to the same thigh. Full recovery seems to take more than a week.

Another, Shinbu Ryu karateka I think he said, karate acquaintance and instructor said one way of countering the thigh attack is to stand with front foot slightly raised so that even if kicked it will swing and not hurt the thigh which is horizontal and difficult to hit anyway. He called it the cat foot (neko ashi) stance. It looks rather like the famous Karate Kid "crane" pose but with hands down and not so extreme. Here is a google image search for the cat foot pose in Japanese. Not only does it protect the front, kickable thigh, but it allows for various kicking attacks. https://goo.gl/aUofbY Here are some Japanese people demonstrating movement, kicks, how to defend and how to attack (get the rear leg) the cat-foot position https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=%E7%8C%AB%E8%B6%B3%E3%80%80%E7%A9%BA%E6%89%8B Since kicking the knees is now illegal in kyokushin karate, a pose in which the thighs are level with the knees would make it almost impossible to hit them with round house kicks.

The same man also said that he would be unable to sit down for a week after a karate match due to the damage to both thighs.

I guess the cat foot pose is similar to or a more extreme version of the first respondents "Many modern fighters raise the knee."

My stiff-karate-thigh is not that painful so much as just stiff and so I thought it was partly psychological -- my leg going into stiff mode so I thought "the getting used to it" method might work. But then I see that my leg has swollen up quite a lot so I realise I have done myself some damage.

Neither ice (pack) nor heat (shower nor hot shiatsu) seem to relieve the stiffness. Cycling seems to relieve the stiffness slowly. I have ordered some Zheng Gu Shui herbal ointment online since it was recommended elsewhere.

I have a strap on my thigh now and that seems to help as did jetting hot water on it in a jacuzzi.

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    Please take the tour. This is a question and answer site, and your post is a new question rather than an answer to the question of how to harden the thighs. You should ask this as a new question.
    – mattm
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 11:32
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    Other answers noting that it is impossible to harden the thighs gave tactical suggestions as answers as did I (jumping the shins, and neko ashi pose). I widened that to treatments as well admittedly. No good?
    – timtak
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 20:57
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    The part that is no good is that you are asking a new question in a post that is an answer. Ask a new question, and you can link back to this question if you think it helps to clarify.
    – mattm
    Commented Apr 30, 2017 at 15:15
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    Sorry. I have removed the request for more suggestions.
    – timtak
    Commented May 1, 2017 at 5:11

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