Tighten and tone your leg muscles with these effective exercises.
Giving your legs a good workout offers multiple rewards. For one, your leg muscles will be strengthened to reveal shapely calves and toned thighs. And second, because your leg muscles are the largest muscles in your body, working them provides the greatest calorie burn and helps you build other muscle.
On the days you focus on strength training at the gym, be sure to give your legs a great workout with these five great exercises. You may be a little sore the next day, but you won’t be disappointed.
One of the most effective exercises you can do is the squat. It’s challenging yet simple and works practically every muscle in your body—especially those in your lower body. To build leg muscles and tone your glutes, try a back squat using the barbell in the power rack. Rest the bar high on your back near the base of your neck and hold the bar near your shoulders. Take the bar off the rack, place your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart, and point your toes slightly out. Take a breath, bend your knees, and lower until your thighs are parallel to the floor or lower. Raise back up and exhale near the top. Breathe and repeat. The whole time, keep your head in line with the rest of your upper body and maintain a tight core.
With a weighted barbell on the floor in front of your shins, place your feet shoulder-width apart, slightly angled out and flat on the floor. Grab the bar with your palms facing you, slightly wider than you thighs. You can also have a mixed grip (one hand facing you, the other facing away from your body.) Use the strength of your lower body muscles (not your arms or back) to lift the bar off the floor until you are in standing position. You should feel like you’re pushing the floor down with your feet. Make sure your shoulders and hips are rising at the same time to ensure you’re using the right muscles. Then lower the bar down to the floor using reverse motions. Repeat.
A third leg exercise that’s sure to provide results is the weighted lunge. Holding a dumbbell in each hand by your side, step far forward, backward, or to the side with one leg and lower your body until your front thigh is parallel to the floor. Keep your torso upright and maintain your balance through the entire movement. Take care your knee goes no farther than your toes. Return to a standing position. Repeat on the same leg, alternate legs, do walking lunges, or jump up and switch legs midair.
This exercise uses the leg press weight machine and mainly works your quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thighs). Place the desired amount of weight on the machine pins, sit on the seat, and put your feet on the platform shoulder-width apart. Let the weighted platform lower so your knees are bent, then press the platform up until your legs are straight in front of you (without locking your knees). Inhale and slower lower the platform until your legs bend at a 90-degree angle. Then push with your heels and use your quadriceps to straighten your legs again as you exhale. Repeat.
The front squat works multiple muscles but really targets your quadriceps. Again, use the barbell in the power rack. Load the bar and bring your arms under the bar. Bend your elbows, keeping them high while you hold onto the bar. Position the bar across the top of your chest and lift the bar off the rack by using your legs and straightening your body. Keep you head up and step back from the rack, placing your feet shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly out. Inhale and then lower your body into a squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor or below, making sure your knees don’t pass your toes. Raise the bar using your legs and exhale back into starting position. Repeat.