Leg exercises not only build lower-body strength and definition but also work the core muscles and help improve balance as well. They are crucial to enhancing athletic performance and making daily activities, such as climbing stairs, easier.
The following sequence uses dumbbells, kettlebells and your body’s own weight. It doesn’t include some classic leg exercises, such as barbell squats, that are more safely done in a gym, where you can find equipment such as a squat rack along with people who can spot you.
If you’re new to leg work, start nice and easy—three sets of five reps per exercise, let’s say—and build sets and/or reps as you go.
Same for weights: Start with weights light enough that you can control them throughout the entire sequence of an exercise. You can go heavier as you gain strength.
This exercise is a good introduction to the world of weighted squats. It works your hamstrings and glutes while also strengthening the muscles that help stabilize your ankles and knees.
When doing squats, always keep your back straight, with no rounding, and keep your knees over your feet.
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell resting on each shoulder; your palms should face one another.
2. Engage your core, then bend your hips and knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground; keep your pelvis level.
3. Pause, the push upward, squeezing your glutes, and finish with your shoulders directly over your hips.
Kettlebell Romanian Deadlift
This exercise also works the glutes and hamstrings in addition to muscles in your back and forearms.
Keep your back straight and your neck in a neutral position throughout the lift. Don’t allow your knees to lock out.
1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, holding a kettlebell in both hands in front of you, arms extended downwards, and palms facing your body.
2. Hinge at the hips, moving your butt backwards as far as you can go. The knees should bend slightly.
3. Pause, then return to the starting position.
Dumbbell Lunge/Reverse Lunge
Both lunges work all of the lower-body muscles while improving core strength by forcing your torso to keep you upright. You may find the reverse version a little easier on your knees; it also helps keep your hips flexible.
To target your quads, take shorter steps; to work your glutes, take longer ones.
For the forward lunge:
1. Stand hip-distance apart, a dumbbell in each hand (palms facing your body).
2. Step forward with one leg and lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
3. For a walking lunge, step forward with your rear leg; otherwise return your front leg to the start position.
For the reverse lunge:
1. Assume the start position.
2. Step backward with one leg, lowering your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thing is parallel to the floor. Keep your torso upright.
3. Return to the start position.
Bulgarian Split Squat
This more challenging version of a squat helps improve hip flexibility and balance.
1. Stand in front of a bench, feet shoulder-width apart and a dumbbell in each hand, at a distance where you can comfortably reach the bench when you move your leg backwards.
2. Rest the top of one foot on the bench. Engage your core, roll your shoulders back and lower your body until your rear knee nearly touches the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
3. Push up to the start position.
Elevated Calf Raise
This exercise builds your calves while also flexing your ankle joints, which helps build base stability.
1. Stand with your forefeet on a short platform of some sort, feet hip-distance apart; your heels should be hanging off the platform. (If you need to, place the platform next to something you can hold onto for support.)
2. Raise up on the balls of your feet, pushing your body up.
3. Pause, then lower until you feel a stretch in your calf muscles.
This isn’t just a leg exercise: The kettlebell swing will work almost every muscle in your body, giving you a cardio workout while also improving balance, flexibility and posture.
1. Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, a kettlebell centered in front of you.
2. Lower yourself (don’t bend over) and grip the kettlebell with both hands, palms facing inward. Then extend your hips to raise the weight off the floor.
3. Take a deep breath and bend your hips backwards, allowing the weight to travel back between your legs.
4. Using an explosive motion, extend your hips while exhaling, allowing momentum to swing the weight up to shoulder level.
5. Control the weight’s decent while allowing its momentum to start the next rep.
This exercise helps build your quadriceps, which in turn helps protect your knees. It also works the glutes and hamstrings, making it a good all-around leg exercise.1. Stand hip-distance apart in front of a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing towards your body.
2. Step one foot onto the bench, pressing through your heel to straighten that leg, then bring the other foot up to meet it.
3. Step back down with the second foot, then alternate between feet as you step up and down (this helps you maintain your balance).
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**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.