Thursday, 13 September 2012

Love Your Lower Body in 4 Moves


Leg Exercise 1: Lunges

Lunges work most of the muscles in your legs and buttocks with one simple exercise:

  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and then take one giant step forward with your right foot.
  2. 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.
  3. Using your leg muscles, slowly raise yourself back up.
  4. Repeat the movement for three sets of 30 repetitions for each leg.
Tip: 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 knee problems, modify this leg exercise by taking a smaller step forward and only drop down as far as is comfortable. While lunges are a fantastic toning exercise for legs, some people with knee problems may have to avoid lunging entirely. If so, plenty of other exercises strengthen the legs without placing too much stress on the knees.

Leg Exercise 2: Pliès

Pliès are one of the best ways to tone the inner and outer thighs and you can make the exercise as intense or moderate as you need.
  1. Stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Take one small step out with each foot and then turn your feet outward like a duck.
  3. Place your hands on your hips or hold the back of a chair for support.
  4. Keeping you back straight, gently lower your entire body down about six inches and then raise it back up slowly.
  5. Repeat the movement for three sets of 30 repetitions.
Tip: When you move slowly without using momentum, the muscles must work harder, and they become stronger faster. You can modify pliès almost endlessly. You can drop down more or less depending on your needs, move your feet closer together or farther apart, or even work on your core muscles by holding one arm curved over your head and the other in front of your body a lá a ballet dancer.

If you want more challenge, do a full set of pliès, and on the thirtieth repetition, hold the lowered position for 15 seconds. After the 15 seconds, gently pulse your body up and down no more than a few inches for another 30 seconds.

Leg Exercise 3: Heel Raises

Heel raises work the calf muscles. Calves tend to respond to strengthening very quickly and gain definition in a matter of days, so this exercise can be rewarding for people who like fast results.
  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. You may want to place your hands on your hips to help with balance.
  2. Raise your body up onto your tiptoes and hold it for a few seconds. Lower back down slowly.
  3. Repeat this leg exercise for three sets of 40 heel raises.
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. Use this exercise at work by taking the stairs and stepping only halfway onto the next step, forcing your calves to work harder.

Leg Exercise 4: Squats

Squats are a great exercise to firm and shape your buttocks and upper thighs.
  1. Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and arms by your sides.
  2. Keep an upright posture and slowly lower buttocks as though about to sit down in a chair. Lower several inches and then slowly stand up.
  3. Do three sets of 20 squats.
Tip: If you have knee pain with squats, lower your body only as far as you can without pain, or skip this exercise.

Leg Exercise 5: Lateral Raises

For the outer thighs:

  1. Begin with your weight on your left foot and your right foot pointed out at an angle.
  2. Hold on to a chair or wall for balance and slowly raise and lower your right leg out to the side. You don't have to lift your leg high; just raise it as far as is comfortable.
  3. Do at least 3 sets of 20 repetitions for each leg.
For the inner thighs:

  1. Stand again with your weight on your left foot.
  2. Raise and point your right foot in front of you.
  3. Slowly move your right foot and leg across your left leg. If you do not feel stress in your inner thigh, turn your leg so that the inner thigh is facing the ceiling and slowly sweep the leg back and forth across the other.
  4. Repeat for 3 sets of 20 repetitions for each leg.
Strong, healthy legs are worth the effort, and they respond quickly to exercise. Incorporate squats and lunges into random parts of your day – brushing your teeth, doing laundry, washing dishes – and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fast your legs shape up!


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