7 super-charged exercises for leg day

 lower-half-blast

Try these seven leg-blasting moves you can do anywhere.

Having great legs doesn’t have to mean spending hours at the gym on the squat rack. Here are 7 exercises to tone, tighten and sculpt!


 

 Body weight squat – PICTURE – Women's Health & Fitness

Body-Weight Squat

Set: 3 | Reps: 15

WHAT IT HITS: Quads, glutes, adductors, hamstrings, hip flexors, abs 

WHY IT WORKS: Helps strengthen your entire body – both your bones and muscles (and knees); increases flexibility.

HOW TO
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Lower your body as far as you can by pushing your hips back and bending your knees until your thighs are parallel to the floor.

3. Pause, and slowly stand back up.

 


 Side lunge – PICTURE – Women's Health & Fitness

Side Lunge

Set 3 | Reps: 12 per leg

WHAT IT HITS:  Glutes, hamstrings, quads, hip adductors

WHY IT WORKS: Increases strength and power in the legs. Stepping to the side increases mobility and flexibility of the hips.

HOW TO

1. Stand tall with feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Take a wide step to one side.

3. When your outside foot contacts the ground, lower your body by pushing your hips back and bending the knee.

4. Keep your inside leg straight and foot firmly planted.

5. Pause when the outside thigh is parallel with the ground, and then push back to the starting position.

 


 Jump squat – PICTURE – Women's Health & Fitness

Jump Squat

Set: 3 | Reps: 10–12

WHAT IT HITS: Quads, glutes, adductors, hamstrings, abs 

WHY IT WORKS: While regular squats are great, squat jumps offer a new take on the traditional, one that you’re definitely going to feel in your quads. 

HOW TO

1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Start by doing a regular squat, then engage your core and jump up explosively.

3. When you land, lower your body back into the squat position to complete one rep.

4. Land as quietly as possible, which requires control.

 


 

 Jumping lunge – PICTURE – Women's Health & Fitness

Jumping Lunge

Sets: 3 | Reps: 10–12

WHAT IT HITS: Glutes, quads, hamstrings

WHY IT WORKS: An excellent functional bodyweight exercise promoting gains in balance, stability, power and speed. 

HOW TO:

1. Begin with a normal lunge, with front leg at a 90-degree angle in the squat position and back leg behind you.

2. Squat body explosively up into a jump.

3. Replace your feet in the air, moving back leg in front, and front leg in back.

4. Go straight into lunge with opposite legs. Keep chest upright and engaged throughout entire movement.

 


 

 Lunge-finish-nikki

Forward/ Backward Lunge

Sets: 3 | Reps: 12 per side

WHAT IT HITS:  Quads, glutes, abs, hip adductors and abductors

WHY IT WORKS: Excellent exercises for thighs, lunges also help sculpt your buttocks and calf muscles.

HOW TO

1. Stand upright with feet together.

2. Step forward with your right leg. Bend both knees until your back knee is almost touching the floor. (Don’t let your forward knee go in front of your toes.)

3. Push off your right heel to bring the right leg back and step backwards. Bend both knees until back knee is almost touching the floor. (Again making sure your forward knee does not go past your toes.)

4. Come back to starting position and repeat.

Photo credit: Nikki Fogden-Moore

 


 

Donkey kickback – PICTURE – Women's Health & Fitness

Donkey Kickback

Sets: 3 | Reps: 15 per leg

WHAT IT HITS: Glutes, hamstrings

WHY IT WORKS: Able to be done any time, anywhere, this move will work both your butt and your lower back — all you need is a floor!

HOW TO

1. Kneeling on the ground on all fours, with hands directly under shoulders and knees directly under your hips.

2. Lift your leg up until it is at a 90 degree angle. (Really think about the muscle that you are working. Squeezing your glutes and stay in control of the movement the entire time.)

3. Slowly lower your leg back to starting position. 

 


 

Curtsy lunge – PICTURE – Women's Health & Fitness

Curtsy Lunge

Sets: 3 | Reps: 15 per leg

WHAT IT HITS:  Abs, calves, quads

WHY IT WORKS: Builds strength in the major lower body muscles and can be done anywhere.

HOW TO

1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. 

2. Keeping your weight in your left foot, take a big step back with your right leg, crossing it behind your left leg (as if about to do a curtsy).

Slowly bend your knees and lower your body straight down until your front thigh is parallel to the floor, and both knees are bent at 90 degrees.

Be sure to keep your abs drawn in and your back straight.

3. Switch legs.

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