Tone your legs with these muscle-building exercises

To strengthen your legs and avoid injury, you must work all of the muscles in your legs equally. The following balanced routine will incorporate thorough leg work to produce strong, toned legs.

Tone your legs with these muscle-building exercises

Squats

Full squat: 

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip distance apart.
  • Tuck in your tail bone, flatten your back and firm up your abdominal muscles.
  • Inhale and slowly bend your knees as you sit back, as if you were going to sit back into a chair.
  • Your upper body will lean slightly forward, but don't allow your lower back to arch or your spine to round.
  • Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel with the floor.
  • Then exhale as you press up through your heels and extend your legs in a fast, explosive motion.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times. Do this two or three times a week.

Quarter squat:

  • For this exercise, you'll do the same motion and use the same technique as the full squat, but you won't bend your knees quite so far.
  • Rather than lowering your thighs to parallel, bend your knees only a quarter of the distance of the full squat before rising to the starting position.
  • Repeat 10 to 15 times, two or three times a week.
  • While squats strengthen all of the muscles in your legs, you should do other leg exercises to balance your muscles.
  • So include the following leg-strengthening movements with your squats, completing the entire routine two to three times a week.

Lunge

  • Stand with your feet under your hips.
  • Take a large step forward with your right foot.
  • Bend both knees up to 90 degrees until your right thigh is parallel with the floor.
  • Exhale as you straighten your legs and step back to the starting position.
  • Repeat with the left leg. Continue alternating stepping forward with your right and left leg for a total of 10 to 15 repetitions on each leg.

Leg lift

  • Lie on your right side with your legs extended, supporting your head with your right hand.
  • Lift your left leg towards the ceiling, keeping your foot flexed and the edge of your foot level (don't lead with your toes).
  • Lower and repeat 15 times. Then bend your left knee and rest your lower left leg on the floor in front of your torso.
  • Flex your right foot and lift your right leg, feeling the effort in your right inner thigh.
  • Lower and repeat 15 times. Then switch sides.
  • Once 15 repetitions begins to feel easy, strap an ankle weight on each ankle for extra resistance.

Quadriceps extension

  • Sit in a chair with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Lift and extend your right leg, until your calf is parallel with the floor.
  • Lower and repeat 15 times. Switch legs.
  • If doing 15 repetitions begins to feel easy, strap an ankle weight on each ankle for extra resistance.

Hamstring curl

  • Lie on your stomach with your legs extended.
  • Bend your left knee, lifting your left foot towards your butt.
  • Lower and repeat 10 to 15 times. Then switch sides.
  • Again, once 15 repetitions begins to feel easy, strap an ankle weight on each ankle for extra resistance.
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