To create an hourglass shape, you want to build up your leg and hip muscles while shrinking your stomach and waist. To reach this goal, you have to conquer the challenge of building up muscle while simultaneously losing fat. Luckily, some are designed to do just that. The best muscle-building, fat-loss workouts combine weight lifting with cardio to burn calories and build muscle.
Toning Your Legs
The glutes, hamstrings and quads are the most important leg muscles to build up if you want to tone your legs. They're the biggest and strongest muscles of your lower body.
To build them up, you'll have to use weights or jumping exercises. Barbells, dumbbells or kettlebells are necessary because your leg muscles are so strong, it takes the extra resistance from added weights to stimulate the muscles to grow.
Some of the best exercises to build leg muscles are the squat and deadlift. Any variation of these will help you build muscle because they're powerful movements that engage multiple muscles at once.
Single-leg exercises, like lunges, also help grow your leg muscles. They're effective because you isolate one leg at a time and don't have to share the effort with assisting muscles, such as the core.
Burning Belly Fat
Losing fat helps you flatten out your stomach and brings out the definition in your leg muscles. High-intensity exercise is one of the best ways to do that, especially if you're short on time. With high-intensity weight lifting exercises, like the thruster, you'll experience a fat-burning workout while simultaneously working your legs.
In fact, some of the best exercises to burn calories are lower body exercises. Your legs are large muscles and need a ton of energy to work hard, so you'll burn more energy by doing lower body weight-lifting exercises.
Diet is also important in weight loss. You need to eat fewer calories during the day to lose the fat off your stomach. The trick is in figuring out how to avoid eating extra food.
Eating higher amounts of fiber that comes from food like oatmeal and kale will help keep your more full and help you eat less. Protein, which you can get from eggs, chicken and fish, also helps you curb hunger and eat less.
Few other exercises are as taxing as the thruster on both your upper and lower body. You burn calories and build muscle at the same time.
How to: Stand tall with a dumbbell in each hand. Swing the dumbbells up to your shoulders. Hold them there and squat down as low as you can, then stand up. As you get to the top, start pressing the dumbbells overhead. Use the momentum you gain from standing up to lift them up. Press until your arms are locked out overhead, then lower the dumbbells back to your shoulders and repeat.
To combine the calorie-burning power of interval training with the muscle-building effects of plyometrics, try this exercise.
How to: Start standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Squat down about two feet and then jump into the air as high as you can. Land, squat down, and jump again. Do as many reps as you can in 30 seconds, then rest.
This exercise tones your quads, hamstrings, and butt muscles with high repetitions and added resistance.
How to: Stand, holding a dumbbell in each hand. Take a big step forward and drop your back knee down towards the ground. Step your back foot up to your front foot, then step forward and lunge with the opposite leg from the last rep. Do 10 reps on each leg.
You can lift a lot of weight in a deadlift, which makes them great for building up your leg muscles -- specifically your hamstrings and glutes.
How to: Place a barbell on the ground. Walk up to the center of the barbell until your shins are about 1 inch away. Stick your butt back and bend forward to grab the bar with your hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Stick your chest out, push your butt back, keep your back flat and put your weight into your heels. Press through your heels and pull the bar up. Thrust your hips forward to stand tall at the top, then reverse those steps to put it back down.
You can use a light kettlebell and 25 to 30 reps to use this exercise to burn calories, or use heavy weight and 10 to 15 reps to build up the muscles of your hips and hamstrings.
How to: Place a kettlebell on the ground in front of you. Stand two feet behind it with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart. Grip the handle of the kettlebell with both hands and swing it back between your legs. Bend your knees and stick your butt back. Then, thrust your hips forward powerfully and stand up tall to swing the bell forward. Let it swing until your arms are parallel to the floor, then swing it back down between your legs.
While it's not a weightlifting exercise, indoor cycling is one of the best ways to burn calories and still work your leg muscles. Research suggests that females can burn around 450 calories in 40 minutes, and males can burn around 550, according to an article from Summit Medical Group.
How to: If you don't want to attend an indoor cycling class, find an exercise bike and hop on, adjusting it to your height. Use a challenging amount of resistance and pedal as fast as you can for 20 seconds, then slow it down for 10. Repeat for four straight minutes, then rest. If you still have energy, do another four-minute set.
- ACE Fitness: BEST EXERCISES FOR GREAT LEGS AND PAIN-FREE KNEES
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Effect of exercise intensity on abdominal fat loss during calorie restriction in overweight and obese postmenopausal women: a randomized, controlled trial
- The Journal of Nutrition: Increasing Total Fiber Intake Reduces Risk of Weight and Fat Gains in Women1,2