5 Exercises to Work Every Part of The Leg

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To get strong, toned legs target all four areas of your thighs (areas 1 – 4), as well as your calves (5). Perform the following exercises in a slow and controlled manner. At the most challenging part of the exercise, hold your position briefly and gently return back to your starting position.

As you get stronger, do the exercise slower to increase the intensity of the workout. Remember, it is better to go slow and do fewer repetitions than to go fast and do more. To make some of the exercises more challenging you can use dumbbells/ kettlebells, or if you don’t have any to hand, grab a couple of cans of beans to use as light dumbbells or fill a couple of old plastic milk/ juice containers with water to use as kettlebells.

Keep your core muscles engaged at all times by pulling your belly button in to your spine. This will ease the pressure on your lower back and make it more difficult on your legs.

1. LUNGES

STARTING POSITION:

  • Stand tall, lift your chest up and look straight ahead
  • Stand with your feet slightly spread apart.
  • If you want to make the exercise more challenging hold a light dumbbell (around 2lbs) in each hand with your arms at your sides.

MOVEMENT:

  • In a controlled movement, slowly step forward with your right foot. Don’t lunge forward too far. The further forward you step, the more the exercise targets the glutes and back of thighs, while shorter lunges target the front of thigh more.
  • Bend your right knee. Your thigh and lower leg should form a right angle.
  • Lower your left leg until your left knee almost touches the floor.
  • Your right knee shouldn’t pass your right foot/ toes.
  • Pause briefly in this position, then rise back up and push backwards off your right leg to return to the starting position.
  • Switch legs.

KEY POINTS:

  • Inhale while stepping forward.
  • Exhale while coming up and pushing off the back foot.
  • Make sure your head is up and your back is straight.
  • The leading foot should be pointing forwards (not sideways).
  • Do not do this exercise if you feel any discomfort in your knees.
  • Perform 20 repetitions (10 for each leg) and 1-3 sets.

2. WIDE SQUAT

STARTING POSITION:

  • Stand straight with feet spread wide and toes pointing straight ahead or slightly outward.
  • Arch your lower back slightly and have a slight bend in the knees, keeping it so throughout the exercise.
  • Cross your arms in front of your chest or to make the exercise more challenging hold a dumbbell (start with light weights and increase as you find the exercise easier) and hold it either between your legs or at your sides.
  • Keep your head up, chest lifted, and abdominal muscles tight.

MOVEMENT:

  • Lower your body by bending from your hips and knees (as if you were lowering yourself to sit on a chair)
  • Squat until thighs are almost parallel to the floor.
  • Slowly return to the starting position, and straighten your legs, but don’t lock your knees.

KEY POINTS:

  • Exhale while returning to the starting position and inhale while lowering your body.
  • Do not let your knees come over your toes, try to keep your knees in line with your ankles.
  • Keep your heels in contact with the floor.
  • Push off with your heels as you return to the starting position.
  • You can to try this exercise without weights until you master the movement. Avoid this exercise if you have pain in the lower back or knees.
  • Perform 15 repetitions and 1-3 sets.

3. OUTER THIGH LIFTS

STARTING POSITION:

  • Lie on your right side. Your head, shoulders and hips should all be aligned.
  • Your right arm should be extended out straight or resting under your head.
  • Rest your left arm on your left hip.
  • If you want to make the exercise more challenging, fasten a very light ankle to your left leg.

MOVEMENT:

  • Keeping your right leg straight and your foot flexed, slowly raise your right leg. Hold for a moment, then slowly lower your leg lower and repeat.
  • Lift your leg for 2 counts and lower it for 4 counts, i.e. you should lower your leg more slowly/ controlled than during the lifting phase.
  • Repeat for 8 times.
  • Turn over and repeat on the other side

KEY POINTS:

  • Do not rotate body forward or backward.
  • Gradually progress to 3 sets.

Bonus: Can easily do this exercise whilst watching television.

4. INNER THIGH LIFTS

STARTING POSITION:

  • Lie on the floor on your right side.
  • Your body should be in a straight line, such that your head, shoulders and hips are all aligned.
  • Prop up your upper body with your right elbow, which should be directly under your shoulder. Your weight should be on your hip and elbow.
  • Bend your left leg and place it on the floor in front of you.
  • If you want to make the exercise more challenging, fasten a very light ankle weight to your right leg.

MOVEMENT:

  • Keeping your right leg straight and foot flexed (i.e. your toes should be pointing forward), slowly raise your right leg off the floor.
  • Pause at the top of the movement, hold, and slowly lower your leg back to the floor.
  • Complete 20 repetitions and switch sides.

KEY POINTS:

  • Keep your body aligned during the movement.
  • Work your way up to 4 sets.

Bonus: Can easily do this exercise whilst watching television.

5. CALF RAISES

STARTING POSITION:

  • Stand tall with legs shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing forward.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and let each hang by your sides.

MOVEMENT:

  • Lift your heel off the ground and rise up onto your toes as high as you can, such that you’re standing on the balls of your feet and toes.
  • If you want to make the exercise more challenging, rise up on one foot only.
  • Slowly lower your heels back to the floor.
  • Do 15 repetitions and 2 sets.

KEY POINT:

Remain balanced and in control during the movement.

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