Good strong legs are one of the best assets we should appreciate and maintain. Without it, we will not be able to do most of the things we do today with our legs. We will be half incapacitated without it.
Strong legs help us to walk, run, jump and balance. They also support and let us enjoy everyday activities. If you want to tone your legs, follow these exercises and tips.
One of the best exercises to tone our legs is the Squats. It is a basic exercise that anyone can do without the need for any special equipment. It helps to sculpt our butts, hips and abs and it is ideal if we have back issues. It works on muscles in the legs and can help increase our overall strength, flexibility and balance. Since squatting is done while standing up and without extra weight, it doesn’t strain our backs. The primary muscles involved include the gluteus maximus, hip flexors and quadriceps. Our abdorminal muscles, calves, hamstrings and lower bac also get a good workout.
The number of calories we will burn when doing squats will depend on our body weight, the number of minutes we spend on the exercise and the intensity of the squatting session. The intensity is also known as the metabolic equivalent (MET) value. For example resting in a seated position has a MET value of 1.
The number of calories burned is calculated as follows:
Calories burned per minute = 0.175 X MET X weight (in kilograms)
The table below shows the intensity level of your activities versus the MET.
Note: 1 MET = 1 kcal kg-1 hr-1 or 1 MET = 3.5 ml kg1 min1 of O2
For balance or extra support, perform squats standing alongside a wall or next to a chair or the edge of a table with one hand on the object while not pulling on it or pushing off from it.
Here is an example of how to use this formula for a person weighing 75 kg who has performed 5 minutes of high-intensity squats. If you are using pounds for your weight, you will need to divide the number of pounds by 2.2 first.
165 pounds / 2.2 = 75 kg
Plug the MET value (refer to the table above) and the number of kilograms into the formula:
Rate of calories burned per minute = 0.0175 X 8 X 75 = 10.5
Take the number of calories burned per minute and multiply it by the number of minutes exercised:
10.5 X 5 = 52.5
So this formula shows that a person who weighs 75 kilograms and performs 5 minutes of high-intensity squats has burned 52.5 calories.
The table below shows the calories burned based on a range of exercise intensities and duration.
|Duration (minutes)||Number of calories burned|
|Low intensity (3.5 METS)||High intensity (8.0 METS)|
There are mainly 6 types of Squats you can try and choose that you think is the most suitable for your body.
In each of these squat exercises, you may use resistance bands for added challenge (and fun, may be) to the exercise.
Adding free weights to your squat can increase your muscular strength. if you have just started out on this exercise, start light. You should be able to easily hold the correct form when using weights. You can always add more weights once you are comfortable.
A plié squat is an exercise that strengthens the legs, inner thighs, glutes and calves. It increases the range of motion in your hips. The plié squat is a classic ballet move which keeps the back straight while also bending the knees.
The benefit of Split Squat is that it strengthens the muscles of the legs, including the quads, hamstrings, glutes, and calves. Also, as a single-leg exercise, your core is forced to work in overdrive to maintain your balance. With one leg behind you and elevated off the ground, this exercise targets many of the same muscles as a traditional squat with an emphasis on the quads. This variation can be performed with or without dumbbells.
Jump squat is a powerful, plyometric exercise that strengthens your entire lower body and increases your heart rate for a significant calorie burn. Jump Squat target quads, hamstrings, glutes and calves while also toning the ab and back muscles. You are forced to balance your body weight, which results in a stronger core from the intensified muscle stabilization. This exercise is suitable for anyone who spends long periods of time sitting at a desk in an office to help with his/her posture. However, if you have never done squat exercises before and are starting out now, Jump Squat is not the exercise you should start with as it involves force that may tax the lower joints. It develops explosive strength and speed that can help in different sports from sprinting to soccer. Here is how you do it:
A Squat Pulse exercise is a bodyweight squat variation that uses a shorter range of motion than standard squats. The difference with the basic squat exercise is that you hold it down a little bit once you squat and you pulse up and down but not too far up. While most squats focus on the butt, making it firmer and larger as you do the exercises regularly, the squat pulse exercise also targets your leg muscles and your core, giving you a nice set of legs and of course the undeniable set of abs. It is less jarring than jump squats, but they still up the difficulty of a standard squat.
Follow these steps to do a proper Squat Pulse exercise:
You may combine pulses with jump squats. Lower into a squat, do one pulse and then jump up off the ground. Land in a squat and pulse again. Repeat and do two to three 30-second 1-minute sets.
Tips for squats
Lunges work your thighs, butt and abs. This move uses both legs at the same time, making it a great exercise for strong legs.It is a resistance exercise that can be used to help strengthen your lower body including your quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves. When practised from different angles, lunges are also a functional movement. Functional movements can help you work muscles in ways that benefit everyday movements you do outside of exercising. For example, side lunges help strengthen the muscles your body uses to move and change direction.
There are many variations of the lunge exercise.
The Basic Lunge
The basic lunge strengthens the quads, glutes and hamstrings. Do the following steps to do lunge correctly.
A walking lunge uses the same set of muscles as a basic lunge. It helps to elevate your heart rate from the additional movement. The following steps are the way to do a proper walking lunge.
Lunge with a torso twist
In addition to your glutes and quads, this exercise gives you the added benefit of working your abdominals. To do this exercise, follow the steps below.
Side / lateral lunge
In addition building strong stomach muscles, the Plank Leg Raise exercise is one of the best exercises for toning your legs. All you need for this exercise is a yoga/exercise mat so that your elbow will not hurt while leaning against the hard floor.
Strengthening your entire core is crucial for providing support for your entire body during everyday movements. It can also help to reduce back pain and improve posture. In fact, plank exercises burn more calories than sit-ups or crunches because they work out your glutes, hamstrings, quads, shoulders and muscles in the legs, arms and rear too.
Here is how you do plank leg raise exercises:
Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps, alternating legs. If that is too hard, start with fewer reps and work your way up.
A Single Leg Deadlift is a hip-hinge movement that strengthens the back, core and legs. This exercise involves one leg lifting off the ground and extending out behind you. The move complex movement works even more core muscles as well as the standing leg, which help to improve balance. It works the hamstrings, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, ankles and core.
Here is how you do a Single Leg Deadlift exercise:
This exercise is super versatile depending on your goal and skill level. If you are just starting out, begin with three sets of 10 reps, no weights and with 90 seconds of rest in between. Once you start to feel comfortable with the balance component, you can work towards your goals. If your goal is muscular endurance, do three sets of 15 to 20 reps with just 60 seconds rest in between. If you are aiming for strength, add some weights and go for three sets of five to six reps with three minutes of rest in between. If your goal is to increase muscle size, add more weights and do three sets of 8 to 12 reps with 90 to 120 seconds rest in between.
If you are looking for a killer core workout that challenges your balance and gets every abdominal muscle worked out, consider doing the stability ball knee tuck exercise. It works our calves, shins and abs. For this exercise, we will need a stability ball/pilates soft ball that is properly inflated.
Here is how you do the stability ball knee tucks:
With this exercise, you will need a knee-height plyometric box or a raised platform. This exercise combines the action of the lunge with stepping upwards onto the box/platform just like climbing up stairs with big steps. To reduce stress on the knee, always step onto the center of the box. It targets your butt and upper hamstrings. For a more challenging step-up exercise, hold a weight such as a kettlebell or dumbbell in each hand. Here is how you can do a proper step-up exercise.
For a more challenging variation of this exercise, hold onto a 7 kg dumbell in each hand.
This exercise is a plyometric move that strengthens our main lower-body muscles including the glutes, quads, calves and hamstrings. It will help make us faster, more powerful and springier than ever. If we do them for more than a few seconds, they will raise our heart rate and burn calories faster. This explosive workout is one of the best ways to tone our legs, butt and core.
Follow these steps to do this exercise.
To build power with box jumps, do one to three sets of three to five reps using as high a box as you can jump on without sacrificing good form,
The speedskater jump exercise is an elegant, but a deceptively high-intensity move that improves our lunging power and capability. The elgance comes from the impeccable balance we will develop doing the exercise which mimics a skater gracefully speeding across the ice. The difficulty comes from the challenge provided to your body by the explosive lateral jumps. It is a plyometric exercise that will provide us with a stern test of strength, balance, fitness and co-ordination. The main muscles worked by this exercise are found in our legs and rump. Our quads receive the bulk of the burden, but our hamstrings, glutes and calves will also be nicely toned by the movement. Extra benefits come in the form of balance and co-ordination improvements, unless we keep falling over. A full minute of this exercise will get our heart pumping. For beginners, start with small jumps. Over time, you may try bigger jumps.
To do this exercise, follow these steps:
How far you jump determines the difficulty of the move. So if you are finding it hard to keep your balance without touching the ground with your back foot, then shorten the distance you jump.
The glute bridge exercise is a versatile, challenging and effective exercise. It is an excellent addition to any workout routine regardless of age or fitness level. This exercise targets the back of your legs, hamstrings and glutes. These powerful muscles span our backside and are responsible for producing the majority of the power that our lower body generates. Because they are so powerful, they require a lot of energy to operate. We burn a hefty dose of calories when we include them in aerobic exercises such as running and biking. This may appeal to those that aspire to achieve fitness goals like gaining strength, losing weight or trimming up.
This exercise increases our lower back strength and core stability. When performed correctly, the glute bridge can help improve the vitality of muscles surrounding our spinal column, thus improving our posture.
Do the following steps for a proper glute bridge exercise.
Another variation of this exercise is keeping your toes and legs straight forward and your knees close together while performing the same steps as above. This targets the inside of our thighs and the glute muscles along our midline.
Medical doctors and fitness experts consider jump roping (or rope skipping) as an affordable and simple cardiovascular workout that improves conditioning, balance and coordination. Overall, jump roping offers cardio health benefits and allows you to burn plenty of calories in a relatively short amount of time and with fitness equipment that is relatively affordable.
Exercises mentioned above are important for toning our legs quickly and they are indispensable. But of course there are other ways to complement these exercises.
Although as mentioned earlier, the above exercises are indispensable for toning our legs fast, we can supplement them and incorporate some exercises into our daily activities such as walking. Where possible, we should walk more than we take a vehicle. For example, if we want to buy some groceries from a supermarket that is up to a kilometer (or even 2 if you want more challenge) away, we should walk instead of driving or taking a bus there.
Walking is one of the best aerobic exercises to tone our legs. As we get stronger, we should try jogging or running. We should try to walk more wherever we go instead of driving or taking public transport. The reward of walking more is not just a pair of more toned legs, but your wallet will be happy too.
An alternative to walking is cycling. If for some reason you prefer to cycle than walk, you are always welcome. Cycling is another fast way to tone our legs. It is a high-intensity workout. What’s more, it is easier on our joints than jogging or running. One important thing to note though is that we should engage the appropriate gear (if available on the bike) that is the most suitable for us so as not to overstrain ourselves and avoid possible injuries.
If you like dancing, good for you! Dancing is not only fun, but it can tone our legs fast too. We can take a class or follow a video at home. There are many types of dancing including salsa, hip-hop and line dancing. Dancing also increases our heart rate, improve balance and enhances our memories.
We should not overwork our legs as it can slow down recovery and weaken our muscles. If we exert ourselves too much without taking days off, the result can be the opposite of what we desire and can often cause injuries. Resting will allow time for our muscles to repair and get stronger.
In between workouts, we can wear compression leggings or socks to improve blood circulation by applying pressure on our legs. This promotes blood flow and supports muscle repairs after doing exercises that tone legs.
Read How To Lose Your Leg Fat for tips on how you can lose fats in your legs fast.
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