With summer in full swing, it’s common for all of us to be a little more conscious of what our bodies look like. Maybe we want to look our best in our swimsuit, or maybe we’d just like to be able to keep up with the rest of the family on a hike. While we may focus more on our health in the summer, it’s crucial to your health to stay in fighting shape year-round. They didn’t build Rome in a day, so let’s start with one area: Legs
In the summer, you’ll notice your legs more as you break out the shorts and swimsuits. While your legs may stay concealed the rest of the year, you should start paying more attention to them. The strength of your legs is important for day-to-day activities, like walking, climbing stairs, dancing, and even sitting. By building the strength in your legs, they’ll not only look more toned, but you’ll also find yourself more at ease with your daily activities. For best results, you should start incorporating “leg day,” or a day of workouts committed to building leg strength, no more than two times a week (1).
If you don’t know where to start, add these 5 workouts into your weekly workouts for the most toned legs of your life.
(All of these exercises can be done with minimal equipment and we will provide alternatives for any that is mentioned)
- For this first one, all you’ll need is a bit of spare wall space. While a simple exercise, your body receives quite a few benefits. You’ll get your heart rate up (hello, calorie burn!), work your glutes, hamstrings, and quads, and you’ll build muscle endurance (2). Rather than doing reps, you’ll do the squat for a designated amount of time. This means you can push yourself with milestones, such as adding an extra 10 seconds each week.
- How-to: First, find a good space to do your squat. Any wall space that is free of furniture or wall decorations is ideal. Stand with your back against the wall, then set your feet about hip-width apart. Next, slide your backside down the wall until you are in the squat position. You’ll know you’ve made it once your thighs are parallel to the ground. Hold this position for as long as you can, but set a goal so you have something to aim towards. Start with a 30-second goal, but if that’s too easy, try to make it to a full minute. Then, try to add five seconds each time you revisit the exercise.
- If the name didn’t tip you off, calf raises help make your calves become stronger and leaner. Plus, they can help with your overall balance and ankle strength. They can even help runners become faster, as strong calves will make you light on your feet (3).
- How-to: You don’t need any equipment for this unless you want to stand by a wall for support. All you need to do is stand up straight with your feet slightly apart. Then, you’ll simply rise up onto your tiptoes. Try your best to maintain your posture and not wobble forward or to the side (if you need help balancing, this is when you would use a wall for support). Maintain this pose for five seconds, then lower your heels to the ground. Repeat the calf raise 10-15 more times.
- You may think of lunges as more of a stretch than an exercise, but they have many benefits. You can target different muscle groups based on which area you’d like to target, which means you can put multiple types of lunges into your routine. If you’re looking to focus on your inner and outer thighs, side lunges should definitely be on your radar.
- How-to: Start standing with your feet relatively close to each other. Then, starting with your right foot, take a wide step as far as you comfortably can. Next, you’ll bend your right leg and move into the lunge position. After doing a lunge, bring your right foot back to your normal standing stance. Repeat this on both sides 10-12 times.
- This exercise will help build the strength in your quads. You’ll be able to feel the difference in everyday life, whether it’s the ease you’ll have climbing the stairs, or your ability to keep up with your young nephews on a hike. When choosing the height that you’ll “step up” onto, consider the benefits. If you choose a lower surface to step to, you’ll keep the focus on your quads. If the step is a bit higher, your body will be targeting your glutes and your hamstrings.
- How-to: Find a surface you can step up onto. At home, you may use a step stool, but if you have access to a gym, there are likely step platforms available. Start with your right foot. Step up onto the platform with your right foot, and raise your left knee as you do so. At the end of the pose, you’ll be standing on the box with your right leg straightened and your left knee raised in front of you at a 90-degree angle. Then, you’ll step back down by first putting your left foot on the ground and then your right. Repeat this exercise on both sides 10-12 times.
- Lastly, we’re going to recommend a cardio workout to round out your leg day. If you start your workout with an inclined walk, it’ll help activate and stretch out your muscles. Plus, it’ll get your heart rate up, which will help your calorie burn throughout the whole workout.
- How-to: Step onto your treadmill and start walking slowly (2 mph) with no incline. Once you’ve had one or two minutes to warm up, raise the incline of your treadmill between 10-15% grade. As you get used to this height, you may choose to hold onto the handles on your treadmill. Increase the speed to 3 mph, and adjust accordingly. If you need to lower the speed to maintain the incline, do so. Or, if you find 3 mph easily, feel free to increase your speed. Do this exercise for 20-30 minutes. If you don’t have access to a treadmill, you can also go on a hike in a local park. Focus on increasing your speed as you approach an incline for the best results.