With warmer temperatures coming, soon we can ditch long pants for capris and shorts; socks and shoes for sandals and flip flops. This may stimulate greater focus on the legs, which for most of us have been covered for months. That means some shaving and exfoliating may be in order, in addition to some targeted workouts. There’s no magic way to shape (or lengthen!) your legs, but a smart regimen of cardio and specific strength exercises can tone them.
Just in time, here we address leg exercises to prepare for shorts weather. Get going today!
Leg Exercises: Cardio Options
Most every cardio modality uses the legs, except the upper-body ergometer, but you can really target the gams with workouts such as:
- Hiking/incline climbs
- Barre regimens
- Inline skating
These exercises significantly emphasize the leg muscles, while burning fat and calories, and vary them to challenge your body differently. To prepare for shorts weather, do cardio work 3-5 times a week for 30-60 minutes. Steady-state cardio is fine, but ramp up results with high-intensity interval training, where you alternate rigorous intervals of 20-120 seconds with less intense recovery periods.
Leg Exercises: Strength Training
Working the major leg muscles against resistance, such as body weight, free weights, machines or elastic bands/tubes, can build strength and add definition. If you belong to a health club, take advantage of the variety of ways to strength train. If you work out at home, get 5-15-pound dumbbells and/or a 15-30-pound barbell.
Perform at least 5 (or all 8) of the exercises below two to four times weekly, completing two-three sets of 12-15 repetitions of each with slow, controlled motion.
- Squats – With feet hip width-apart, place a barbell across upper back, or hold dumbbells alongside your body. Push back and down as you sit through your glutes, with weight in your heels. Try to get your thighs parallel to the floor, and tuck your tailbone with a pelvic tilt when standing up.
- Lunges – With a barbell across upper back, or holding dumbbells alongside your body, step forward and keep your knee in line with lower leg, with knee over ankle and shoulders and head level. Alternate right and left legs, trying to get the thigh parallel to the floor.
- Plies – With feet wide, turn toes out and lower the hips as you bend knees, trying to get thighs parallel to the floor. As you come up, squeeze the inner thighs and glutes. Use a barbell or dumbbells.
- Deadlifts – Holding a barbell or dumbbells with feet together, hinge forward from the hip, keeping back flat and reaching hands toward shins. Maintain flat back as you come upright.
- Calf raises — Holding a barbell across your shoulders or dumbbells with feet together, lift heels so that weight is on the balls of your feet; pause and lower.
- Abductions – Lying on one side with hips stacked, bottom leg bent and top leg straight, lift and lower the top leg to target the outer thigh. Rest a dumbbell or barbell on the top leg.
- Adductions — Lying on one side with hips stacked, bend top leg and cross foot over straight bottom leg. Lift and lower the bottom leg to target the inner thigh, and place a dumbbell or barbell on the inner thigh.
- Hamstring curls – From all fours, drop to elbows. Lift the right leg parallel to the floor and bend and extend at the knee, pulling heel toward glute.
- Leg extensions – If you have access to a leg extension machine, use it to isolate the quads.
By incorporating these leg exercises, you’ll be ready for shorts in no time!