The primary muscles in the back of your legs are the gastrocnemius and soleus of the calves and the hamstrings on the back of the thighs. Calf raises help to develop muscle tone in your calf muscles, while squats and leg curls will help you chisel your hamstrings. Walking tones all three major muscles in the back of your legs. To minimize the risk of injury, do gentle hamstring and calf stretches before starting any toning exercises.
The Simplicity of Squats
The American Council on Exercise suggests the squat exercise as a toning exercise for the hamstrings. Start by standing with your feet set just slightly wider than your hips, your toes angled out slightly and your palms turned inward resting by your sides. Brace your abs. Make sure your spine remains stabilized and your chin is parallel to the floor. Let your weight shift back onto your heels, bend at the knees and move your hips both down and back. Ease your body weight onto your heels. Keep your feet steady and your back flat, and don’t let your knees pass your toes. Lower down so your thighs are as close to parallel to the ground as possible. Exhale on the way back up and push with your heels, elevating your hips and your torso simultaneously.
The Luxury of Leg Curls
Leg curls tone your hamstrings using your body weight as resistance. The exercise library website ExRx.com describes a leg curl that you can do on a stability ball. Start by lying flat on the floor with your lower legs resting on an exercise ball. For stability, your arms should extend out from your sides. Straighten out your hips and your back. Pull your heels toward yourself. Be careful to bend at the knees and keep your hips and back straight. Roll your feet up onto the ball. Straighten your knees and return to the original position.
Carving Muscle with Calf Raises
The gastrocnemius and the soleus both benefit from a toning exercise called the calf raise. You will need a simple platform, a set of stairs or a flat block of wood supported against the wall. According to ExRx.com, you should start a basic calf raise with the balls of your feet resting on the block and your heels off the block. Stand near a wall or another sturdy support to help yourself stay balanced if necessary. Extend your ankles up as far as you can to raise your heels. Lower your ankles back down until you feel a nice stretch in your calves.
Wondrous Walking Workouts
Walking is an aerobic exercise that tones the thighs and calves. The Weight-Control Information Network suggests wearing shoes with good arch support, solid heels and soles thick enough for the surface you’ll be walking on. You should take at least three walks per week, each of which should be a minimum of ten minutes in duration. Good form can improve the toning benefits of your walking workout. “Fitness Magazine” suggests bending forward slightly at the hips to increase momentum and flexing your toes throughout the workout to keep your muscles engaged.