How about we get you on the right path to shaping and leaning up your legs and behind?
Everyone, look in the mirror. What body shape are you? If you’re an apple shape, you carry most of your weight around your middle. If, however, you’re pear shaped, the bottom’s have it and you tend to store your extra fat in your butt and legs. You can’t change genetics, but you can certainly optimize your shape!
You should tone and shape your lower body with a combination of cardio and weight training. Cardio involves any activity that is weight-bearing. Walking, running, hiking, biking, climbing and spinning are great examples. Equipment includes the elliptical, stepper, rower and treadmill. To get great legs, you really need to cross train, so change it up as much as you can to challenge your quads, hamstrings, calves and glutes. The key is to be consistent with at least 5 cardio opportunities every week. That includes biking to work, taking the stairs and walking as much as you can.
For the strength training, you don’t need a gym, as you’ll be using your own weight and resources at home for each exercise. It also helps to work out in front of a mirror so that you can monitor your form. We love to multitask so most of these exercises will also work some part of your hips, thighs, butt and legs. Always be mindful of your core. Suck in your abs and keep a strong core as you do each exercise.
Before beginning any exercise program, please make sure to check with your physician if you have any medical condition or disability. I highly recommend that you consult a certified fitness professional who can help guide your training program. Also, warm up with about 10 minutes of cardio and cool down with simple leg stretches.
Everyone needs to do strength training 2-3 times a week as a base. There must be a day of rest in between weight training days. You can do all of it at home and get terrific results. The key is to maintain excellent form.
Beginner: Do one set of 8-12 repetitions of each exercise with either no weight or light weight.
Intermediate: Do 1-2 sets of 8-12 repetitions of each exercise starting with light weight and then graduating to medium weight for the second set.
Advanced: Do 3 sets, using a lighter warm-up weight for the first set of 8-12 repetitions, medium weight for the second set of 8-12 repetitions, and heavier for 6-10 repetitions, all performed in good form for the third set.
1. Dumbbell Squat: Hold two dumbbells at your sides, with your palms facing in. Stand with your feet roughly shoulder-width apart. While keeping your shoulders, back, and head upright, bend your legs at the knees and lower your hips until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Then, pushing from your heels, lift yourself back to the starting position. Keep your back as straight as possible throughout this exercise. If you have trouble balancing, try placing a sturdy, 1-inch-thick wooden block or a couple of dumbbell plates under your heels. Beware: Don’t allow your knees to extend beyond your toes. Your weight should shift backward into your heels as you lower down. Keep your ABS tight to stabilize your lower back.
2. Dumbbell Lunge: Stand with your feet together, toes pointed forward, a dumbbell in each hand. Keep your shoulders squared, your chin up, your back straight, and palms facing in. Step forward with your right foot. Bend at your knees, and lower your hips until your left knee is just a few inches off the floor. Push with the right leg, raising yourself back to the starting position. Repeat until you’ve done the planned number of reps for your right leg; then do the same for your left leg. Beware: Don’t point your toes in or out. Both feet should point straight ahead. Also, don’t lift your heel on the forward foot. Keep it flat. The proper form is with the kneed on the forward leg over your ankle, not out in front of it.
3. Chair Squat: This is one of my favorites because we have so many opportunities to do this every day. Getting up from a chair or out of a car, you can feel your strength, or lack of it. Stand in front of a chair with feet hip-width apart. Tighten your abs and keep your torso straight. Gradually bend your knees and lower yourself as if you were going to sit in the chair. When your butt is about an inch from the chair, stop and hold for 2-5 seconds, keeping your knees behind your toes, and then straighten up. You can do with or without weights. Beware: Don’t do this exercise if you have knee issues. Don’t lean forward as you straighten up, as you may lose balance and fall forward. Keep a strong core throughout the exercise.
4. Angled Calf Raise: Hold a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing in, and stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Turn your toes out so your feet form a 45-degree angle. Keeping your legs straight, raise yourself on your toes as high as possible. Pause for a count of one; then slowly lower yourself down to the starting position. Beware: Don’t do this exercise on a carpet — find a solid surface, like a hardwood or concrete floor. Do not rotate your toes to more than a 45-degree angle because that would stress your knee joints. Also, make sure your knees are stationary and straight but not locked. Too much knee flexion inhibits calf isolation.
5. Hip Extension: Stand about 6 inches from a wall, both feet pointed forward and about a foot apart. Place your palms on the wall shoulder-width apart. Lift your right leg behind you about a foot off the floor, keeping the whole leg completely straight. Tightening your butt, hold for 5-10 seconds. Slowly lower to the floor. Repeat with the other foot. You can do this exercise with ankle weight to further challenge your gluteal muscles. Beware: Don’t lift your leg too high as you’ll stress your back. The goal is to tighten and strengthen the glutes and you can accomplish this without swinging your legs all over the place.