No muscle group is more taken for granted or abused than our legs. We stand on our feet for hours at a time, we run, we jump, we walk, we shop, we walk our dogs, we go to the mall, we cook … well, you get the picture.
There’s nothing more attractive than well-shaped ankles that lead into nicely muscled calves that continue on to strong knees merging with muscular yet feminine thighs that end with a nice curvy yet firm rear end. With summer fast approaching and bikini season around the corner, a sexy pair of legs certainly adds to the allure of those short shorts or the mini skirt still sitting in the back of your closet begging to be worn. Don’t throw them out … because with this workout as a part of your regular exercise regimen, which includes at least 3 to 4 days of cardiovascular exercise (for which you need your legs, too) you should be able to get into those sexy short shorts!
Form and Posture
When doing lunges and squats it’s critical your knees never go beyond your toes, because if they do, you are putting undue pressure on your knees and ankle joints, which for most of us tend to be the weakest links in our legs. It’s a catch 22 situation — lunges and squats are good for strengthening the muscles surrounding the knees, hence strengthening the joints there and making them less prone to injury, but if you do injure your knees then you can’t do lunges and squats without being in pain. So protect your joints while you still can! And they’ll protect you.
Squats 3×15 — there are endless variations of squats – you can increase intensity with dumbbells in each hand, or as you get more comfortable, switch to a barbell. Further intensify it by doing it on a BOSU Balance Trainer, with weights in each hand. Here, I’m describing the basic squat.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your toes pointing forward, shoulders wide, abs contracted, hands by your sides, or to make it tougher, hands out in front of you at 90-degrees from your body.
- Bend as low as you can – as if to sit in a chair, ensuring your butt sticks out behind you so your knees are directly in line with your toes and never further ahead of them.
- Your goal is to ultimately be so low that the tops of your thighs are parallel to the floor. Be sure not to bounce at the bottom position.
- Return to standing position.
Lunges 3×15 — there are perhaps more variations of lunges than you can think of as well! You can do walking lunges, reverse lunges, side lunges, dumbbell lunges, barbell lunges … you get the picture, and the list is endless. My favorite variation is to stand with the back leg on a slightly raised platform (just even three to four inches raised). You will be amazed at how much the intensity is increased in that position.
- Stand with your feet staggered…a stride’s length apart, back heel lifted, abs contracted, shoulder wide and hands by your sides.
- Lower yourself so the thigh of the front leg is as parallel to the floor as possible keeping your torso erect, with your front knee in line with your toes and your back knee pointing down.
- Contract your buttocks and press through the front heel to straighten your legs and come back to standing position.
Leg Extensions 3×15 — this requires the use of the machines in your gym. A variation you can try at home is to wear ankle weights and add many more repetitions since your ankle weights won’t be more than 2-5lbs at most.
- Sit in the machine and adjust yourself so your ankles are firmly positioned under the pads.
- Slowly raise the pads and stop the motion when your knees are locked in front of you.
- Stay at the top for a two second count and then slowly lower to the starting position.
Seated or Lying Leg Curls 3×15 — this requires the use of the machines in your gym.
- Sit in the machine and adjust yourself so your ankles are firmly positioned on top of the pads and your legs are stretched out straight in front of you. You can hold the handles by your sides for balance or support.
- Slowly curl the pad downward until your knees form a 90-degree angle. Hold for two seconds and slowly raise your legs back into the starting position.
Step Ups 3×15 — this can be done either on a block or a bench and can be done with or without dumbbells. This does require a slight bit of coordination and balance so be careful when you first get started. You can vary this by doing alternate leg step ups, same side leg step ups, double steps, or step up and lunge at the top of the step. Find what works for you and gives you the best burn!
- Stand in front of a bench with both feet on the floor.
- Place your right foot on the bench and stand on the bench by bringing your left foot onto the bench.
- Step down with the left leg.
- Return to original standing position by placing right leg on the floor.
- Repeat the first step with the left leg alternating first steps between left and right legs.
Calf Raises 4×15 — you can use the machine at the gym for seated or standing calf raises, or you could simply do this in your home with dumbbells in each hand. Again, find what works for you and gives you the best burn!
- Stand with your feet hip width apart, shoulders back, abs contracted and raise yourself onto your toes as high as you can.
- Hold for two seconds and then lower yourself to the ground. Try and avoid bringing your heels all the way to the ground.
Don’t forget to stretch out the muscles you’ve worked by doing simple static stretches after you’ve worked out.
Remember no bouncing!
Our legs are most forgiving of us and yet will appreciate the work we put into it and reward us with shapeliness fairly quickly if you follow these exercises. Like the biceps they take form and build rather quickly, allowing you to quickly see the fruits of your labor. Make lunges and squats your friend and pretty soon your legs will be your favorite body parts to workout because your butt will ride firmer and you’ll fill out those boot cut jeans nicely!