You may not realize it but your legs are the very foundation of your day - they carry you places, lift you up stairs, and provide you with a way to get around. Few people grasp the importance of leg strength until they meet with something unexpected that restricts leg power. Having strong legs means power to get around and make your day work for you, and that is why it's important to build up strength in your legs. The good news is that leg muscles are among the fastest in the body to respond to training, so you may see results in as little as ten days!
Many people fear that by performing strengthening exercises for the legs, they will end up with tough, masculine-looking legs. It simply isn't possible! When legs become strong they become lean and beautiful, not big and bulky, so don't be afraid to tap into the power that lies in your legs. Cardio training is a great way to condition the legs while burning fat and calories at the same time, but cardio alone will not shape and define your legs without the assistance of exercises directed specifically at the muscles that make the legs work. Fit this easy routine into your weekly exercise schedule and soon your legs will be the talk of the town!
Strengthening Your Legs with Simple Moves
Lunges, the King of Leg Exercises
Lunges are the hands down favorite with trainers across the country and it's not hard to see why: doing lunges works all muscles in the legs with one simple move. There's no fancy footwork required! Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and then take one giant step forward with your right foot. Place your hands on your hips for balance and then lower your body straight down until your back leg forms a right angle at the knee. Using your leg muscles, raise yourself back up slowly and then repeat the movement for three sets of 30 repetitions for each leg. (Don't forget working the back leg!) Remember to keep your upper body aligned over the knee that is bent and raise and lower slowly to get the maximum benefit.
If you have bad knees, modify the movement by taking a smaller step forward and only drop down as far as is comfortable. While lunges are a fantastic move for legs they can be especially challenging for people with bad knees and you may decide to abstain from lunging entirely. If so, there are plenty of other exercises that strengthen the legs without placing too much stress on the knee. Use the other moves mentioned here or talk to a trainer or knowledgeable friend. It is possible for people with sore knees to strengthen and tone the lower body.
Pliès: Not Just for Ballerinas
Don't be scared off by the fancy French name; plies are one of the best ways to tone up the inner and outer thighs without driving yourself to insanity. Performing plies also places less stress on joints and can be as intense or moderate as you need. Begin by standing with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Take one small step out with each foot and then turn your feet outward like a duck. Place your hands on your hips or hold the back of a chair for support. Gently lower your entire body down about six inches and then raise it back up slowly. Repeat the movement for three sets of 30 repetitions. By moving slowly, you force the muscle to work harder without the benefit of momentum and thus the muscle becomes stronger faster. Pliès can be modified almost endlessly. You can drop down more or less depending on your needs, move your feet closer or farther apart, or even work on your core muscles by holding one arm curved over the head and the other in front of the body a lá ballerinas.
An excellent modification for those who want a greater challenge is to perform a full set and on the thirtieth repetition, hold the lowered position for 15 seconds. At the end of fifteen seconds, gently pulse your body up and down no more than a few inches for an additional thirty seconds. This works the muscle overtime and can define and tone even faster.
Heel Raises: Fast Toning on the Go
Heel raises are a wonderful exercise for people on the go because the exercise can be done practically anywhere without attracting odd glances from strangers. The target of the heel raise is the calf muscle, which can be a problem area for many people. Calves tend to respond to strengthening very quickly and gain definition in a matter of days, so this can be a very rewarding exercise for people who like fast results. Begin by standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. You may want to place your hands on your hips to help with balance. Simply raise your body up onto your tiptoes and hold it there for a few seconds. Lower back down slowly. Repeat this movement for three sets of 40 heel raises. You can do this standing in line at the grocery store and no one will think anything about it.
When you are ready for a bigger challenge, stand on a stair or sturdy elevated surface and let your heels hang off the edge. Slowly raise and lower your body for three sets of 25 repetitions. This asks for greater work from the calf muscle and shows up almost immediately. Use this move at work by taking the stairs and stepping only halfway onto the next step, forcing your calves to work harder
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