The Top 10 Exercises to Tone Your Legs
You already know you don’t need a gym membership or fancy classes to get your workout in, but it sure would be nice to have a personal trainer! Good news: I am one. So when the Brit + Co team asked for the ultimate leg exercises, I knew exactly which to share to get everyone rocking their holiday LBDs with confidence.
The idea is simple; below are 10 of the best leg exercises… EVER! Do as many of each exercise as you can in one minute. If you can still walk afterwards, repeat. If not, stretch. In fact, either way stretch — it’s important for sculpting long, lean muscle and preventing pain and injury. Do these exercises once a week, then sprinkle a few into a cardio day for an additional challenge and to keep your muscles guessing. Then get ready for some serious, cocktail dress-ready gams (no shaping tights required.) Strong thighs don’t shy away from a close-up… or a leather mini (proof above)!
1. The Classic Lunge: This powerful move is classic for a reason — it will tighten and tone every single muscle in your legs, with a few of those amazing corset-like transverse abdominals for a bonus. The trick to mastering this move is to make sure you move up and down, not forward and back. Lift the toes on your front foot to ensure weight is distributed from the ball of your foot. Watch to make sure your knee and ankle stay in line, forming a perfect 90 degree angle. Don’t be afraid to perform this move sideways to the mirror to make sure you have proper form. (photo via Women’s Health Magazine)
2. The Lateral Lunge: A close cousin to the classic forward lunge, this move targets and tightens the neglected lateral plane of movement. Though women oft bemoan the dreaded “saddlebags,” working this just brings everything up and in. Have no fear of bulking. Try to perform this move with your feet on a line (wood floors and sidewalks make great rulers!) and make sure you sit back like you are sitting in a chair, watching to keep your knee from going past your foot. (photo via Women’s Health Magazine)
3. Weighted Squat: Much like the lateral lunge, when you want to do a perfect squat you want to imagine sitting back in a chair. Clutching a dumbbell, medicine ball or kettlebell to your chest, bend your knees and draw your weight back, using your core for balance. Make sure those pesky knees stay in line with your ankles, extending no further than the arch of your feet. To practice, perform this move in front of a chair or bench, making sure to lean your weight back over the seat. (photo via PopSugar)
4. Plie Squat + Calf Raise: Targeting the inner thighs, outer thighs and calves, this three-step move is the dancer’s secret to lean, taut muscle. Make sure when you bend into your plié that you get as low as you can, trying to get your legs parallel to the ground. To help, you can start with your feet slightly farther apart than would seem natural. When you raise your heels, make sure to focus on engaging your calves and keep the upper body in line with the hips, not leaning forward or back. (photo via Life Plus Fitness)
5. Curtsy Lunge: This powerhouse lunge is like Spanx, tightening every single muscle in your thighs and hips while also improving balance and posture. Watch that your upper body stays in line with your hips, not leaning forward or back. Make sure your front knee doesn’t extend too far over the foot and that you stop crossing when your knees are in line with each other. (Photo by Bett Brichoff via SkinnyMom)
6. Calf Raises: This simple move ensures shapely legs by working both the calves and the glute/hamstrings, which have to help lift your entire body weight on the ground. If just your body weight isn’t enough of a challenge, try holding weights while you work out. (photo via Pinterest)
7. Bridge With Marching: Focusing on the back of the legs and the glutes, this challenging move will target the entire backside of your body. Start lying on the ground, with your feet slightly away from your bottom and your hands on the ground. Press your shoulder blades down into the ground as you slowly raise your vertebrae, starting with your lower back and stopping right before your bra line lifts off the ground. Tighten your glutes and your abs — check in a mirror to ensure you have as straight a line as possible. Using your abs, lift one foot off the ground, holding it at a 90-degree angle. Slowly return to starting position, then shift feet, alternating. (photo via Pinterest)
8. Superwoman With Ball: Start this exercise lying face down, with a ball clutched firmly between your calves to engage your inner thighs. If you don’t have a ball, a pillow or towel will also work. Press your abs firmly into the ground. Using the back of your body and your glutes, raise your arms and legs off the ground. At the top, squeeze your legs together even tighter and hold for a beat. Slowly lower and repeat. (photo via Pinterest)
9. Donkey Kick: This move superrrrrr targets the glutes and hamstring, lifting and tightening the whole area on the back of your legs. Begin on all fours, making sure the palms of your hands are in line with your shoulders and your knees are in line with your hips. You want have right angles, making a square with your body. Contract your glutes to lift one leg up, taking care not to bow your back as you try to kick the ceiling with your flexed foot. Perform all the reps on that side, then switch to the other side. (photo via Pinterest)
10. Deadlift: This exercise is essential and often ignored by women. It works the backside of your body, especially the muscles where your lower back hooks into your glutes. Having a good foundation here will help prevent injury and maximize your workout. Start with a light weight while you perfect your form. Lean forward, keeping your knees straight but not locked. When your back is as low as it will go, reverse the movement to slowly return to start. Imagine your collarbone is a light and you are trying to shine a straight line down the wall in front of you. Perform this exercise last so you don’t fatigue your lower back before performing the more challenging, balance-based exercises. (photo via clubsatcrp.com)
What area do you want us to tackle next? Share your exercise wants and needs below!