Exercise

Creating a lighter, healthier you is a multi-step process. One of the most important steps, and the main focus of this section, is exercise. Here we explore everything from the benefits of exercise to how much and how often it is necessary to promote weight loss.

10 Leg-Strengthening Exercises to Try

The legs support the body and allow us to move one place to the next but how can they be strengthened? Find leg workouts for women and men here!

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The legs support the body and allow us the capability to get from one place to the next. That being said, maintaining and improving their strength can make life easier and more enjoyable.

But how can one strengthen the legs beyond day-to-day walking? (No, this does not require countless leg curls at the gym, either.)

Find leg workouts for women and men here!

10 Leg Exercises

Work the glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves with these muscle-building leg exercises. Also, find a leg strength training workout that can be completed in the comfort of your own home.

1. Run

Running is an extremely effective leg and aerobic workout. The movement targets all leg muscles while strengthening the knees, surrounding joints, and bones.

Running benefits more than just physical health, but has shown to improve mental health and increase happiness.

New to running? Learn how to start running with these beginner tips:

1. Wear the right attire, including supportive and comfortable running shoes.

2. Build up your endurance by mixing running with quick walking – run for 30 seconds, walk for 30 seconds, etc.

3. Concentrate on good form to make you a more efficient runner and lower injury risk.

4. Always remember to warm-up and cool-down.

5. Run with a buddy to keep you motivated and accountable.

6. Fuel and recovery with proper nutrition, which may include pre and post-run carbs and protein.

7. Cross-train to enhance the muscles’ range of motion and running stride.

8. Include rest days for proper recovery.

2. Hike

Hiking is a fun way to connect with nature, free the mind, and strengthen the legs.

And with hills and high altitudes generally present, the legs can also get in a solid workout without dealing with weights!

3. Bike

Biking is a low-impact exercise while still stimulating leg muscles. To intensify the workout, add resistance if riding a stationary bike or tackle hills when biking in nature.

Bike riding also promotes heart health while building the legs and being gentle on the joints.

4. Squats

Whether using bodyweight, dumbbells, or a barbell, squats are added to virtually all leg-strengthening regimens.

How to do bodyweight squats:

1. Stand with your legs at shoulder width.

2. Keeping your back straight and weight in front of the heel, go down from your hips until your legs are parallel to the ground.

3. Keep the knees pushed outward without collapsing inside. The knees should essentially be over the ankles, not extending further than the toes.

4. Squat down as low as you can without losing the arch in the lower back.

5. Press the legs into the ground and drive yourself back up for one rep.

Complete jump squats to improve power, strength, and balance:

1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Duck down into a regular squat position, but engaging the core and jumping explosively.

3. When landing and as controlled as possible, lower the body back to the squat position for a single rep.

Adding a resistance band to various forms of squats can further stimulate the muscle groups in the legs.

5. Goblet Squat

Like standard bodyweight squats, goblet squats are excellent for building leg strength. What’s more, they are more effective in targeting the anterior portion of the legs.

How to do goblet squats:

1. Grasp the top of a kettlebell or dumbbell and hold against the chest.

2. Place feet slightly over shoulder-width apart with toes slightly pointed outward.

3. Keep the core tight and chest forward and start sitting back between the knees while keeping the feet flat on the ground. Squat until the elbows touch the knees to ensure the knees are not too far forward.

4. Drive the heels into the ground and stand back up to the starting position.

6. Deadlifts

While deadlifts primarily target the lower back, the movement also stimulates the quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

Deadlifts may seem intimidating, but they are one superior full-body exercise for both men and women to target the legs, back and core muscles.

How to do deadlifts:

1. Stand with your legs shoulder distance.

2. Slightly bend your knees to pick up the barbell without rounding your back.

3. Now bend down, pushing hips slightly back and keeping your knees soft.

4. Stand up straight while keeping your back arched.

7. Lunges

Lunges strengthen the legs while improving balance, coordination, and stability.

How to do lunges:

1. Start by standing tall with both feet hip-width apart.

2. Take a big step forward with left leg and shift weight so the heel hits the floor first.

3. Lower the body so that the left thigh is parallel to the floor, aiming to keep the knee even to or behind the toe. Like the squat, keep knees pushed and over the ankles.

4. Press into the left heel to drive back to the starting position.

5. Repeat using the right leg for one rep.

Also complete walking lunges, alternating between each leg. Feel free to hold on to a door frame as needed for stability. Or, hold appropriate dumbbell weight as tolerated or preferred for added exertion.

8. Standing Calf Raises

Targeting the calves tends to be overlooked, especially when wanting to tone or grow the upper legs. However, supporting the calves can help strengthen and support the entire leg.

How to do standing calf raises:

1. Stand on the edge of a step or other platform.

2. Plant the balls of your feet on the step and hang heels over the edge.

3. Raise heels a few inches above the edge so that you’re on your tiptoes.

4. Hold the position to feel stretch in the calf muscle then lower the heels back down. That is one rep.

To complicate the exercise, stand only on the left foot and raise while staying balanced. Alternate the movement to the right foot.

9. Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell swings work a multitude of muscles of the legs and even some in the upper body. They are also an effective aerobic exercise to torch calories in a short amount of time.

How to do kettlebell swings:

1. Place an appropriately weighted kettlebell on the floor just slightly in front of you and between the feet.

2. With a slight bend in the knees and hinging at the hips, grasp the kettlebell and pull it back between the legs.

3. Drive hips forward and straighten the back, swinging the kettlebell up to shoulder height.

4. With some control, let gravity return the bell back between the legs for one rep.

10. Butt Kicks

Butt kicks are both a cardio and leg-strengthening exercise, primarily working to elevate the heart rate and target the upper legs.

Similar to jogging in place, flex the right knee and kick the right heel toward the glutes. As the right leg comes down, kick the left leg up, and continue the pattern with arms swinging by your side.

Leg Workout at Home

Crunched for time? No access to the gym? Rethink leg exercises at the gym are the most effective.

This leg workout at home is not only convenient, but an effective routine to strengthen legs! Complete 3 rounds of the leg exercises listed below, resting for one minute between each set:

• Jumping jacks: 40 seconds

• Bodyweight squats: 10 to 15 reps

• Lunges: 10 reps per leg

• Standing calf raises: 12 to 15 reps

• Butt kicks: 40 seconds

• Rest one minute and repeat sequence

Feel free to add weights as comfortable and to challenge your body.

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Medically reviewed By Jenni Berman, PA-C. Published on May 19, 2017. Updated on October 22, 2019.

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