Leg Exercises at Home
You can do the following five leg exercises at home. Doing them at least three times a week will shape your legs quickly. Start easy and work your way up to the recommended repetitions.
If you deal with restless legs, take a look at this program to get rid of restless legs. [Photo by Local Fitness.]
Lunges work most of the muscles in your legs with one simple exercise:
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and then take one large step forward with your right foot.
- Place your hands on your hips for balance.
- Slowly lower your body, bending the front knee, until your back knee touches the ground.
- Using your leg muscles, slowly raise yourself back up.
- Repeat the movement for three sets of 30 repetitions on each leg.
If you have knee problems, modify this leg exercise by taking a smaller step forward and only drop down as far as is comfortable. While lunges are a fantastic toning exercise for legs, some people with knee problems may have to avoid lunging. If so, plenty of other exercises strengthen the legs without placing too much stress on the knee.
Pliès are one of the best ways to tone the inner and outer thighs and can be as intense or moderate as you need.
- Stand with your feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart.
- Take one small step out with each foot and then turn your feet outward like a duck.
- Place your hands on your hips or hold the back of a chair for support.
- Keeping you back straight, slowly lower your entire body down about six inches (more or less, depending on the condition of your legs) and then stand slowly back up.
- Repeat the movement for three sets of 30 repetitions.
Tip: You can modify this leg exercise almost endlessly. You can drop down more or less depending on your needs, move your feet closer or farther apart, or even work on your core muscles by holding one arm curved over the head and the other in front of the body like a ballerina.
If you want more challenge, do a full set of pliès and on the 30th repetition, hold the lowered position for 15 seconds. At the end of 15 seconds, gently move your body up and down no more than a few inches for an additional 30 seconds.
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Heel raises exercise the calf muscles.
- Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. You may want to place your hands on your hips to help with balance.
- Raise your body up onto your tiptoes and hold it for a few seconds. Lower back down slowly.
- Repeat this leg exercise for three sets of 40 calf raises.
When you are ready for more challenge, stand on a stair or sturdy elevated surface and let your heels hang off the edge. Slowly raise and lower your body for three sets of 25 repetitions.
Squats are an excellent choice for firming and shaping the buttocks and upper thighs.
- Stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and arms by your sides.
- Keep an upright posture and slowly lower buttocks several inches, as if about to sit down in a chair. Slowly stand up.
- Do three sets of 20 squats.
Tip: If you experience knee pain with squats, lower your body only as far as you can without pain.
Image Credit: Everkinetic/Wikimedia Commons [CC-BY-SA-3.0]
For the outer thighs:
- Begin with your weight on your left foot and your right foot pointed out at an angle.
- Hold on to a chair or wall for balance.
- Slowly raise and lower your right leg out to the side only as far as is comfortable.
- Do at least 3 sets of 20 repetitions for each leg.
For the inner thighs:
- Stand again with your weight on your left foot.
- Raise and point your right foot in front of you.
- Slowly move your right foot and leg across your left leg. If you do not feel stress in your inner thigh, turn your leg so that the inner thigh is facing the ceiling and slowly sweep the leg back and forth across the other.
- Repeat for 3 sets of 20 repetitions for each leg.
Strong, healthy legs are worth the effort, and the best part is that they respond quickly to exercise. Incorporate squats and lunges into random parts of your day – brushing your teeth, doing laundry, washing dishes – and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how fast your legs shape up!
Click for DVDs with more leg exercises.