Well-toned legs are the goal of many exercisers but with so many exercises to choose from, it’s hard to know where to start. Your legs are made up of multiple muscles which will all need to be exercised if you are to reach your goal of a well-toned lower body. These exercises are considered to be the best lower leg toners you can do in the gym.
Squats work your entire lower body with an emphasis on your thighs and hips. To perform squats, place a barbell across your shoulder or hold a dumbbell in each hand. Standing with your feet hip-width apart, push your hips back and bend your knees. Lower yourself down until your knees are bent to 90 degrees or as far as you can bend comfortably. Stand back up by extending your knees and hips simultaneously. Make sure you don’t round your back as this can lead to injury.
Lunges are an effective leg-toning exercise, especially for the rear of your thighs and butt. Take a large step forward with your left leg. Bend both knees so that your right knee almost touches the floor. Your left knee should be directly over your foot. Keep your body upright and continue to look forward. Push off your left leg to return to the standing position and repeat with the opposite leg. You can make lunges more challenging by placing a barbell across your shoulders or holding dumbbells.
The leg press machine will tone all of your leg muscles and provide support for your lower back. Adjust the machine to suit your height -- how you do this will depend on the make and model of the machine you are using. With your feet hip- to shoulder-width apart, bend your knees until they are bent to 90 degrees. Pushing through your heels, extend your legs and push the weight away from you before repeating.
Your abductor muscles are located on the outside of your hips at the top of your legs. Adjust the back support before you sit in the abductor machine and place your knees on the leg pads -- you will be starting this exercise with your legs together. Keeping your upper body relaxed, push your knees apart as far as you can. Hold this contracted position for one to two seconds before slowly returning to the starting position and repeating.
Hip adductions will tone the muscles of your inner thigh. Sit on the machine and place your knees against the leg pads -- you will be starting this exercise with your legs apart. Push your knees together against the resistance until they touch. Hold this position for one to two seconds before slowly returning to the starting position and repeating.
Standing Calf Raises
To tone your lower legs, you can perform standing calf raises using a calf raise machine. Stand with the pads placed on your shoulders and your feet on the step. Make sure the balls of your feet are on the step and your heels are in mid-air. Without bending your knees, slowly lower your heels toward the floor. Stretch down as far as your flexibility allows. From this position, push up and onto your tip toes. Hold this position for one to two seconds before slowly lowering back down into a full stretch.
- ACSM's Resources for the Personal Trainer; American College of Sports Medicine
- Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning; National Strength and Conditioning Association
- Stronger Legs and Lower Body; Keli Roberts and Linda Shelton