3 Moves for a Strong and Toned Lower Body
By REENA VOKOUN
Your lower body is a very important component of your overall physique, and the stronger it is, the stronger you’ll be when it comes to your current fitness capabilities and your long-term mobility as well.
Below are three exercises to work your lower body and target your quadriceps, inner thighs, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles. You can use weights to add a little bit more challenge to your lower-body workout, but you can always do any of these exercises without weights as well.
If you use weights, be sure to choose them based on your size and current strength level. You can always start off with lighter weights and gradually increase the poundage as you get stronger.
[Read More: 3 Moves for a Strong, Toned Upper Body]
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends doing on average one to three sets of eight to 12 repetitions when doing resistance-training exercises and resting for two to three minutes in between each set. These guidelines can be adjusted based on your goals and ability levels.
1. Traditional squats with weights: Place your dumbbell weights at your waist, keep your feet about shoulder-width apart, feet and knees facing forward, core engaged, back straight and knees slightly bent. Once in this starting position, begin your squat sets. Be sure your knees don’t come over your toes, and point your glutes back as if you are sitting down in a chair.
If the weights feel too challenging, use lighter weights or drop them altogether. You can always add them back in once you feel you can comfortably do the squats with the proper form.
As you continue, you will feel your quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calf muscles really working. Work and isolate those muscles even further by squatting down for two counts and back up for two counts.
2. Plié squats with weights: After doing traditional squats, bring your dumbbells down and rest them on your thighs and turn your toes and knees outward in a plié position.
Keep your knees slightly bent, core engaged and back straight. Again, ensure your knees don’t come over your toes and point your glutes back. By turning your knees and toes outward, you'll feel your inner thighs working as well. Adjust or drop the weights as needed and work and isolate the muscles further by squatting down for two counts and back up for two counts.
3. Calf raises with weights: Hold your dumbbells directly in front of you and next to each other and lift your arms to chest level. Keep your elbows bent, shoulders away from your ears and in this framed position to give the upper body a little bit of a workout as well.
Keep your knees and toes facing outward in the plié position, knees bent, core engaged and back straight. Then, one at a time, lift each heel up off the floor to work the calf muscles. Once again, you can drop the weights and add them back in later if needed.
Here is the entire lower-body workout video:
Try to incorporate these exercises into your overall workout regimen about three times per week. Please also remember to consult your doctor before trying these exercises if you have any health concerns.
Readers -- What are your favorite moves for working out your lower body? Do you do full-body workouts or focus on a specific area in your workouts? Do you use any of the moves described above? Leave a comment below and tell us about your lower-body workout routine! Want more content like this? Sign up for the LIVESTRONG.COM newsletter.
Reena Vokoun is the founder of Passion Fit, LLC, a certified fitness and dance instructor, blogger, video expert, digital-advertising professional and award-winning ESPN National Aerobics Championships competitor. She’s a mom of two boys and happily married.