Start the summer strong with this quick lower-body workout that makes your legs stand out in skirts and shorts.
As the temperatures rise, so do hemlines. Christina Larson, owner and trainer at His & Her Fitness, introduces a lower body workout that targets the leg from toe to tush. Complete this routine two to three times a week for trimmer, leaner legs that will put the “spring” back in your step.
Leg Sculpting Warm Up
Even though the air is warm, your body isn’t. Start your exercise session with a five-minute dynamic warm-up to increase blood flow to your muscles and elevate your heart rate.
Perform each of the following exercises for 60 seconds, resting no more than 10 seconds in between.
High-Knee Walk: Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Without changing your posture, raise your left knee as high as you can and hug it into your chest with both hands on either side of your knee. Lower leg and repeat with the right. Alternate legs for 60 seconds.
Straight Leg Kicks: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. With your left leg rooted into the ground, kick your right leg up toward the ceiling, leading with the heel. If possible, touch your toe with the opposite hand and lower down. Switch legs, alternating for 60 seconds. Make sure to keep both legs straight at all times, limiting your range of motion if needed for proper form.
Arm Hugs: We’ve all seen Michael Phelps do these before he dives into the pool. Standing tall with feet hip-width apart, bring your arms up and out to shoulder height. Bring both arms into a strong self-hug, right arm over left, and hold for one count. Release arms and open as wide as possible. Bring arms back into a hug, this time left over right. Repeat this pattern as you increase speed for 60 seconds.
Butt kickers: Jog in place, bringing your heel up in an attempt to “kick” your rear.
Lateral Shuffle: Start with your feet parallel and facing forward. Shuffle to the left as quickly as you can for five counts, then to the right for five counts, keeping both fee facing forward the whole time. Repeat for 60 seconds.
Leg Sculpting 15 Minute Workout
Perform the next five moves as straight sets, completing three rounds of 20 reps before moving on to the next exercise, resting no more than one minute in between. Finish with five minutes of stretching and foam rolling.
1. Step Back Lunge
(Pictured Above) This exercise targets quads, hamstrings and glutes while challenging balance and engaging the core. Start in a neutral standing position, abs tight and pulled into your spine, shoulders back and knees soft. Holding a dumbbell in each hand, take a large step backward with your right leg and lunge down toward the floor until your left leg is at a 90-degree angle with the floor.
Make sure your left knee is behind your toes, and your right knee is not touching the ground. Drive your body back up with your right leg and return to standing position. Repeat the same movement with your left leg, alternating 10 reps per side. Repeat twice for a total of three reps.
Possible modification: Perform the same movements, without dumbbells until you get stronger.
2. Single Leg Squat Off Step
Navigate stairs in a sundress and wedges like a pro with this strength-building move that relieves tension on the knees and increases balance. Standing on the edge of a step or stair, shift your weight to your right leg as you hover your left leg in the air beside it. Look straight ahead, and lead with the left heel as you lower down like you are sitting back into a chair on one leg. Keep shoulders in line with your hips, knees in line with your ankles, and pelvis tilted toward the ceiling.
If done correctly, you will feel as if you are falling backward. Raise back up to standing and repeat for 10 reps, then change sides. Complete three rounds.
Possible modification: Position a table or other sturdy object on each side of you. Gently balance yourself by placing your fingertips on these objects as you squat. Do not grab hold of the objects; use them only for balance. As you improve, use only one table or a wall for balance; eventually, don’t use anything. Note: This exercise is difficult at first, but don’t get discouraged— just keep practicing!
3. Front Squat
Sit back into a squat position while pushing your hips back, pelvis tucked. Driving your weight into your heels, lower until your legs are parallel to the ground, then return to standing.
Complete 20 reps three times.
Possible modification: Perform the same movements, using a chair or bench as a guide and support at the bottom of the movement. You can also shorten your range of motion and squat a few inches instead of all the way.
4. Straight Leg Cable Raise
Good things take time, so take plenty with this next exercise that tightens the tush and tummy just in time for skin-baring shorts. Place your right foot in an ankle attachment and at- tach to cable, weight set at 5 pounds to start. Place your left knee on a weight bench and hold onto the bench with both hands, keeping your core tight and pelvis tucked. Keep the right leg straight and raise behind you to hip-level or higher, then return to start. Use smooth, controlled movements and maintain a flat back.
Repeat 10 times and switch legs. Complete three sets.
Possible Modification: Position yourself on all fours on a mat, hands under shoulders, back flat and core engaged. Extend right leg behind you, raising it as high as you can while keeping leg straight, toes pointed. Return leg to start. Complete 20 reps before switching sides. Do three sets.
5. Sumo Squat
Don’t let the name fool you; this exercise produces legs that are lean and defined! This squat keeps hips strong and will leave your inner thighs burning.
Stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart, toes slightly turned out and hands clasped together in front of your chest, pushing against one another. Sit back and squat down as low as you can, keeping your heels on the ground and your back straight. Squeeze glutes and press back up to standing. That’s one.
Complete three rounds of 20 reps.
Possible Modification: Perform same movements with a weight.
6. Plank Circles
This fat-fighting move activates the core and glutes at the same time. Start in a basic elbow plank, back flat and abs tight so that your body makes a straight line from head to toe. Lift left foot off floor and make 10 small circles clockwise, then 10 small circles counter-clockwise. Don’t let your back sag or your rear stick up. Return foot to floor and repeat with the opposite leg for one set. Lower down to knees and rest for 10 seconds before completing the last two sets.
Possible Modification: Perform the above movements in a modified elbow plank, lowering your right knee to the floor for support as you make circles with your left leg.
7. Stability Ball Hamstring Curl
This exercise strengthens the hamstrings and fires up the glutes, abs and low back for an all-inclusive challenge of balance and strength. Lie on a mat, placing the backs of your lower legs and heels on top of a stability ball, toes pulled to the ceiling. Contract your core to flatten your lower back against the floor. Slowly lift your hips up off the floor until your body is in a straight line from heels to shoulder blades. Raise your left leg straight off the ball, bend your right knee, and pull the ball toward your hips until you can rest the sole of your foot on top of the ball. Press the ball away from your hips until your knee is straight, lowering your left leg onto the ball. That is one rep.
Complete 10 reps on each side, three sets.
Possible Modification: Keep both feet on the ball to increase stability.
8. Leg Extension
Finish up with this quad-killer, the leg extension. After hitting all major muscle groups in the legs, perform this exercise at the end of the session for total isolation.
Position yourself on a leg extension machine by hooking feet under the bar. Choose a lighter weight that enables you to extend your legs straight.
Pushing your hips back into the seat, raise your legs slowly to full extension, then lower to start with controlled movement.
Perform three sets of 20 reps.
Possible Modification: If you do not have access to a leg extension machine, sit on a chair or bench and tie one end of a resistance band around your left ankle, the other on the chair or bench leg.
Raise your left leg to full extension and then lower to start.