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How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

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.

 

Exercises to tone your legs

1. Squats

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.

Physical Activity Intensity MET
Light intensity activities < 3
sleeping 0.9
watching television 1
writing, desk work, typing 1.8
walking, 1.7 mph (2.7 km/h), level ground, strolling, very slow 2.3
walking, 2.5 mph (4 km/h) 2.9
Moderate intensity activities 3 to <6
resistance training (weight) training, multiple exercises, 8-15 repetitions at varied resistance 3.5
calisthenics (e.g., push ups, sit ups, pull-ups, lunges), moderate effort 3.8
Pilates, general 3.8
yoga, Hatha 3
water aerobics, water calisthenics, water exercise 2.5
bicycling, stationary, 50 watts, very light effort 5.3
3
walking 3.0 mph (4.8 km/h) 3.3
calisthenics, home exercise, light or moderate effort, general 3.5
walking 3.4 mph (5.5 km/h) 3.6
bicycling, <10 mph (16 km/h), leisure, to work or for pleasure 4
bicycling, stationary, 100 watts, light effort 5.5
Vigorous intensity activities > 6
jogging, general 7
calisthenics (e.g. pushups, sit-ups, pull-ups, jumping jacks), heavy, vigorous effort 8
running jogging, in place, squatting 8
rope jumping 10

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)
5 19 44
15 58 133
25 97 22

 

There are mainly 6 types of Squats you can try and choose that you think is the most suitable for your body.

Basic Squat

  1. Start by standing with your feet shoulder-width distance apart while keeping your arms at your sides or stretching forward.
  2. Breathe in and bend your knees while pressing your hips backward. Bring your hands together out in front of your chest. You should stop lowering yourself once your hips are lower than your knees.
  3. Breathe out as you press your heels into the floor to return to your standing position while keeping your arms at your sides or stretching forward.

In each of these squat exercises, you may use resistance bands for added challenge (and fun, may be) to the exercise.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

Dumbbell Squat

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.

  1. Begin with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your arms bent. The weights should be just below chin level.
  2. Inhale as you lower into your squat. Your elbows may even touch your knees.
  3. Exhale when returning to your starting position.
  4. Repeat to complete your set.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

Plié Squat

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.

  1. Start with your feet wider than hip-distance apart, turned out 45 degrees.
  2. Inhale as you lower into the squat – your hips should be slightly lower than your knees.
  3. Squeeze your glutes as you exhale and press up through your heels to your standing position.
  4. Repeat to complete your set.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

Split Squat

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.

  1. Begin with one foot in front of the other in a lunge. Your arms should be by your sides.
  2. Inhale as you drop your back knee towards the ground and bring your arms to meet at your chest.
  3. Exhale and squeeze your buttocks as you return to your original lunge position.
  4. Perform your repetitions on one leg before switching over to the other.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

Jump Squat

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:

  1. Start in your basic squat position with your feet hip-width apart and arms at your sides.
  2. Squat down low and bring your arms behind you.
  3. Then swoop your arms forward and jump up off the ground. Your arms should be over your head and your legs extended out straight.
  4. Land in your squat position and repeat to complete your set.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

Squat Pulses

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:

  1. Lower into a normal squat and stay down low. Make sure your upper body isn’t leaning forward over your legs.
  2. Raise your seat a quarter of the way up to your starting position and then pulse back down to your lowest squat.
  3. Keep pulsing for 30 seconds to a full minute.

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

  • Keep your chest up and your hips back to ensure your back stays neutral and aligned.
  • Look down at your knees when in the full squat. If they have extended beyond your toes, correct your stance so they are in line above your ankles.
  • Put your body weight on your heels, not your toes when raising up to keep the focus on the right muscle groups.
  • The number of calories you’ll burn doing squats has to do with your weight, intensity and amount of time doing them.
  • Start out slow if you are a beginner and make sure you are tuning in to your form so that you are working the right muscles and protecting yourself from injury. Once you get the hang of squats, you can try one or more of the many variations to get the most from your workout.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

2. Lunges

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.

  1. Start by standing up tall.
  2. Step forward with one foot until your leg reaches a 90-degree angle. Your rear knee should remain parallel to the ground and your front knee shouldn’t go beyond your toes.
  3. Lift your front lunging leg to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat 10 to 12 reps on one leg, or switch between legs until you have totaled 10 to 12 times per leg.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

Walking lunge

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.

  1. Start by performing a basic lunge with your right leg lunging forward.
  2. Instead of returning to a standing position, start to lunge forward with your left leg so it is now in a lunge position. Your right leg should stay in position to stabilize you.
  3. Continue this walking motion as you continue to lunge forward, alternating legs for 10 to 12 times on each leg.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

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.

  1. Start by performing a basic lunge with your right leg lunging forward.
  2. After your right leg is lunged forward in front and you are feeling stable, use your core to twist your torso to the right. Hold for few seconds and don’t move your legs out of lunge position.
  3. Twist your torso back to the center. Step back to standing with your right leg.
  4. Switch legs and lunge forward with your left leg. Once stabilized, twist to the left this time.
  5. Perform 10 lunges with twists on each side.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

Side / lateral lunge

  1. This exercise works your inner thigh muscles in addition to working your glutes, hamstrings and quads. Do the following steps for the correct side/lateral lunge:
  2. Start standing tall, feet hip-width distance apart.
  3. Take a wide step out to the left. Bend your left knee as you push your hips back. Keep both feet flat on the floor throughout the lunge.
  4. Push off with your left leg to return to standing.
  5. Perform 10 to 12 lunges on the left side before switching to the right.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

3. Plank leg raise

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:

  1. Start in plank position with hands shoulder-width apart. Your shoulders, hips and ankles should all be in line.
  2. Keep abs engaged and raise the right leg off the floor until it is at about hip height. Keep right foot flexed.
  3. Pause and feel the burn. Then lower your right leg back to the floor.
  4. Repeat with your left leg.

Aim for 3 sets of 10 reps, alternating legs. If that is too hard, start with fewer reps and work your way up.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

4. Single-leg deadlifts

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:

  1. Start by standing with your feet hip-width apart and parallel. If you like, you may hold a weight such as a kettlebell or dumbbell in each hand. Let your hands hang in front of you.
  2. Lean forward in your hips, shifting your weight onto one leg while your other leg engages and starts to extend straight behind you.
  3. Lift your extended leg and pitch your body forward with the weights in your hands hanging straight downwards until your body forms a T shape. Keep a slight bend in your standing leg. Slowly bring in your extended leg and return to starting position. Repeat with the other leg.

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.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

5. Stability ball knee tucks

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:

  1. Place your belly on the stability ball and then walk your hands forward over the floor until the ball is underneath your shins and ankles
  2. Make sure your hands are directly beneath your shoulders for strong plank alignment and press the top of your feet down into the ball for stability.
  3. While you are on the stability ball, your core is what is keeping you in place.
  4. Control your abs so that you keep in balance on the ball and do not roll off the ball. By doing this, you are ensuring a strong aligned plank position without dropping into your low back.
  5. Exhale as you draw your knees into your chest and engage your abs as your knees are pulled into your chest.
  6. On you inhale, extend your legs behind you, returning to your starting position, making sure that your shoulders are still stacked on top of your wrists.
  7. Challenge yourself to start with 10 repetitions of the stability ball knee tucks.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

6. Step-ups

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.

  1. To begin, place your entire right foot onto the bench or chair. Ensure that your knee bends at a 90-degree angle. Press through your right heel as you step onto the bench, bringing your left foot to meet your left so you are standing on the bench.
  2. Return to the starting position by stepping down with the right foot, then the left so both feet are on the floor.
  3. Complete 15 steps leading with the left foot, then repeat another 15 steps leading with your left foot. Do three sets.

For a more challenging variation of this exercise, hold onto a 7 kg dumbell in each hand.

 

7. Box jumps

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.

  1. Find yourself a box or a platform with a height of about 50 cm for a start.
  2. Stand behind the box with your feet shoulder-width apart and bend into a quarter squat while swinging your arms back.
  3. Then swing them forward with an explosive force to give yourself enough momentum to lift off the ground while exerting an explosive force on your legs to take off.
  4. Land on the box as gently as possible. Aim to mimic your take-off position on landing with feet flat and knees slightly bent but don’t let them collapse inwards. If you find yourself landing with a deep squat rather than a quarter squat, it is a sign that the box is too high.
  5. Then jump back down, ensuring to land as gently as possible. You can also opt to step down slowly one leg at a time which will work the glutes even more and safeguard your joints.

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,

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

8. Speedskater jumps

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:

  1. From standing, push off your left foot to leap over to the right.
  2. Land on your right foot, bringing your left foot behind your right leg.
  3. Land gently with a slight bend in your right knee to absorb the shock and keep your left foot off the ground. If you have difficulty with balancing, you can touch your toes on the ground.
  4. Pause for a second, then leap in the other direction.

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.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

9. Glute bridge exercise

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.

  1. Lie down flat on your back with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle and feet placed flat on the ground.
  2. Make sure your toes are turned outwards at 45-degree angles and your knees are facing in the same direction as your toes.
  3. Push up your hips. You should feel this variation fatiguing the outer portion of your thighs.
  4. Make sure you keep your knees over your toes throughout the entire movement. Don’t let them move forward over the toes.
  5. Let your hips sink down slowly towards the ground in a controlled fashion. This completes one cycle.
  6. Perform 3 sets of 15 cycles, or 3 rounds of a 30-second hold.

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.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

10. Jump rope

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.

How to Tone Your Legs in Easy and Everyday Ways

 

 

Other ways to tone your legs.

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.

 

1. Walking

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.

 

2. Cycling

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.

 

3. Dancing

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.

 

4. Rest

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.

 

5. Compression leggings

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.

Breathable Compression Socks For Men And Women

 

Read How To Lose Your Leg Fat for tips on how you can lose fats in your legs fast.

 

 

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