Hit 'stop' on your treadmill; it's time to blast through a killer leg workout. After all, the right leg day workout is key to a toned, healthy body!
Not only will you prevent injury by strengthening your lower body muscles, Tami Tonneson, a Metabolic Specialist, Personal Trainer, and Pilates Instructor at Life Time Athletic at Sky in New York City, says you'll also increase your fat burning ability.
“Many people have some type of an ache or pain in the back, hips, knees or ankles, which could be due to some muscle imbalance in your lower body,” Tonneson said. Seemingly harmless activities you do throughout the day—like sitting for long periods of time with one leg crossed—could cause tightness in one leg and weakness in the other.
“Everything is connected and it works together; if it is not working optimally, our bodies will find a way to compensate,” Tonneson said.
To avoid this and build lean muscle, Tonneson suggests a full leg workout that includes the quads, hamstrings and glutes, as well as the feet and lower legs, with a balanced strength training program. This incorporates lifting three to five days a week with added weights that are challenging to you.
Your program should also incorporate a rest day for your legs to work another area of the body—like your arms or abs—between lower body workouts.
And if you’re worried about building bulky muscle using weights, don’t be. Most body types require heavy weights and focused nutrition, Tonneson said. “It has a lot of amazing benefits for the body.”
One such benefit from a study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research shows that you can burn an average of 100 or more calories for up to 24 hours afterwards by strength training compared to the same time period without lifting weights.
So let's go! Start out slow and build your way up, but Tonneson recommends 10-20 reps for 2-3 sets each for a full, results-driven session.
This adds lateral movement to get into the glutes, Tonneson said.
To begin, stand with feet a little closer than shoulder-width apart and loop your resistance band around the ankles. Drop to form a squat and keep your weight shifted to your heels.
Step to the side with your right leg until you feel substantial resistance (do not push to a point of pain).
Slide your left foot to meet your right. Then repeat with the other side.
This will work both your hamstrings and glutes, Tonneson said.
Using a kettlebell, stand with your feet hip-width apart. Place the kettlebell between your feet on the floor, then squat and grab the handle with both hands.
Push your heels into the floor and stand, pulling the kettlebell straight up. That’s 1 rep; do 10-12.
Plie Squat into Side Kick
Stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart and turn your toes out. Lower into a squat, placing your hands on your hips.
Stand up, shifting the weight into your left leg, and lift your right leg off the floor. Kick your right leg out to the side, trying to get it parallel to the floor.
Bring your leg back in and down, returning to the squat position. That's one rep!
This move will work your quads, calves, glutes and hamstrings. To start, get a pair of dumbbells if you feel comfortable and hold at arm's length next to your sides, one in each hand.
Begin in the lunge position, placing your feet far enough away from each other to create 90-degree bends in both knees. The front knee should not pass over the front toes.
Power yourself out of the lunge by squeezing your glutes and core. Use your arms to help with propulsion, and make sure both feet leave the ground at the same time. Land in your lunge with the opposite leg forward with both feet hitting the ground at the same time.
* If using dumbbells, keep your hands down bay your sides at all times, controlling the movement.
This exercise will focus on the calves and agility of the feet.
Grab a pair of heavy dumbbells and hold them at your sides. Walk forward or in a circle for 60 seconds.
Stand straight and hold a dumbbell vertically next to your chest. Hold one end of a dumbbell against your chest and keep it in place throughout the movement.
Lower your body as far as you can, pushing your hips back and bending your knees. Pause and keep your weight in your heels for a few moments, then push yourself back to the starting position.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Place your hands to your sides, palms down. Squeeze your glutes together as you lift the hips.
Keeping the knees bent, lift one leg up until the thigh is completely vertical. As you lift, press into the heel of your grounded foot. Release the leg and repeat on the other side.
Grab a kettlebell with both hands on either side and hold it in front of your waist at arm's length. Bend at your hips and knees to a deep squat and swing the kettlebell between your legs.
Keeping your arms and wrists straight, thrust your hips forward, straighten your knees and swing the kettlebell up to chest level as you stand.
Return to squat as you swing the kettlebell between your legs again.
Hold a pair of dumbbells at your sides, palms facing in. Stand about 3 feet in front of bench, back facing the bench.
Bend your right knee and lower it toward the ground; at the same time, curl dumbbells toward your shoulders. Aim to get your front thigh parallel to the ground.
Push yourself up, keeping the weight in your right heel while returning the dumbbells to your sides.