My favorite workout is legs day. If I had a choice, everyday would be legs day, and friends don’t let friends skip legs day!
Doing a legs workout burns a ton of calories and helps you get better at whatever other activities in life you enjoy (running, yoga, cardio dance, cycle, walking, you name it, it helps). Leg exercises often engage your core as well, an added bonus I must say. There are only a few core moves for leg exercises (squats, lunges, deadlifts, and those booty isolating moves). The fun is the variety in which you can choose to perform these moves. I’m going to go over a few of the core moves and show you how to “shake it up” as well.
I hear often from people that “I can’t do squats (or lunges), I have bad knees”. This is always disheartinging to hear. Most people don’t even attempt to squat or lunge because they are afraid that this will further injure their knees. However, research has shown that if done properly, squats can help strengthen knees and can help improve flexibility and mobility (see here). Needless to say, it is always important to listen to one’s body first (and the doctor). So if these moves cause any pain, stop. There are other ways to tone those legs (see my booty burner) and some good old fashion walking uphill! However, performing these exercises with just body weight shouldn’t aggravate your joints too much – if you have any concerns always consult your doctor or a sports medicine doctor.
The squat. My favorite move! If you can master this move, you will have an upper hand on 90% of the guys out on the weight room floor (they often have terrible form and are notorious to miss legs day).
To perform a squat there are some simple tricks. Some of which when you read them will make you laugh and think I”m crazy. That’s ok – you will remember these things and you WILL BE better at squatting because of them.
Start with feet directly below hips, toes facing forward, weight in heels (lift up your toes, see how that feels – that’s weight in HEELS)! Keep that feeling in mind. Keeping the back straight, slowly lower your butt down until your knees forms a 90 degree angle. You’ve done this before = this is the move you utilize when you have to use the gas station toilet… you know the hover :). I told you that you were going to be a master squatter! Check your toes, can you wiggle them? Great – now look down and check your knees, are they over your ankles? You will be able to see the tips of your toes over your knees when looking down if you are. If your knees are WAY out in front of your toes (aka you can’t see your shoes at all), I bet your weight isn’t in your heels – just sayin! Now pushing through your HEELS stand back up slowly, keeping your back straight and squeezing your butt on the way up. That my friend is a squat. Welcome to loving those legs!
Closed Leg Squat
You can vary your squat by doing a closed leg squat or a plie squat. The closed leg squat is just like a regular squat, except you glue your feet and knees together. You still want to have your back straight and your weight in your heels. Lower that butt down, really fighting to keep your knees together. You probably won’t go down as low as you did in a regular squat – that’s ok we are working different muscles! This will help work those quads from a different angle, and you will feel this move more in your butt and your outer thighs. Sexy legs here we come!
Plie Squat aka Sumo Squats
Plie (or sumo) squat is just like when you were 6 in ballet class. Legs wider than hips, toes out towards the side walls of the room (instead of forward facing), weight still in your heels. Slowly lower (I like to do the ballerina moves with my arms and really get into this 🙂 Lower your tush down as far as you can (this really works the inner thighs and is amazing your tush too)! Hold for 1 count and then raise up pushing through your heels (don’t forget those ballerina arms if you are into that kind of thing).
Lunges – Dave’s least favorite move. I don’t know why lunges get such a bad rap. I think they are amazing and these exercises are where I normally really feel “work” being done. When doing lunges, one leg stays planted to the ground while the other leg moves. The leg doing the work is actually the leg planted on the ground. It’s going to burn so good 😉 Remember, while doing lunges you are ‘railroad tracks’, not on a balance beam – keep those legs shoulder width apart.
Back lunge: Start with feet below hips (right leg lunges) plant right foot on the floor and prepare for the left leg to move. Reach left leg back while bending right leg to a 90 degree angle. Plant left leg on the ground (on your a tip toe) and stabilize yourself. The right leg is doing the work by being in that 90 degree angle. To return to starting, push off the back foot, engaging your core and lift through your right leg to stand back up.
I like back lunges because you can easily add some variety to the mix! Try this once you get the hang of a back lunge: Lunge back (like above) and when you are coming up from the lunge, instead of returning your foot to starting position, bring knee up! It’s a great stabilizing move (which means you will use your core!!!)
Curtsie lunge: You have probably done this move before as well. You are doing a curtsie (think back to when you were a kid pretending to be a princess). Here is how you preform it – pictures might be easier to follow – so be sure to look at them for guidance. From standing, feet under hips, one leg stays planted on the ground (right leg in this example). Left leg gets ready to move. Instead of going directly behind you like in a back lunge, cross foot back behind you so that your legs are crossed. Once foot (probably just the tip toe) is secure on the ground, bend your knees bringing your left knee almost to the ground and your right knee to 90 degrees. To come back up, first straighten your legs, then bring the left foot back to starting position.
I hope you are able to try these exercises, as they really will help build amazing legs and help tighten that tush and utilize your abs!
Legs Day Routine
Warm up: walk or jog 10 minutes.
Legs: Do 10-15 repetitions for each exercise, then move to the next movement. Rest 1 minute after getting through them all. Repeat 1-2 more times.