Be Strong

Stronger Muscles

4 Exercises for Lean and Lovely Legs
By Melissa Hendricks, M.ED, ACSM-HFI, ACE 
Published 1/25/2013 
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From walking the dog to climbing stairs to dancing the night away, we use our legs in almost all of our daily activities. That’s why it’s so important to keep them strong and stable — ready for anything we need them to do! For now, we’re going to focus on the portion of the leg between the hip and knee joints. Within this area of the leg there are many powerful muscle groups that serve a variety of functions. Our legs can move front to back, side to side and also rotate at the hip joint, so it’s important when training our legs that we add as much variety to the movement as possible. One other major function of the legs, along with the glutes and abdominals, is keeping us balanced. As we grow older we tend to lose our balance, which can lead to injuries. Incorporating balance-based exercises into your leg routine will help to keep you upright!

A good rule of thumb is to incorporate at least 2-3 leg exercises into any full-body strength routine. The added bonus is that the majority of these leg exercises also work your glutes! Do at least 1-2 sets of 10-12 reps for each exercise. Remember to work both legs!

One Leg Balance
Starting with your feet together, lift one foot about 1-2 inches off the ground while raising your opposite arm above your head. Making sure to engage your abdominal muscles to support your lower back, pivot your body around your hip joint so your body ends up facing the floor. Ideally, your arm, butt and heel should from one straight line, but you can work up to that if it’s too difficult for you initially. Hold this position for three seconds and then return to starting position. You can modify this exercise if it feels too advanced for you. Start by taking one foot off the ground, bending the knee and extending that leg slightly behind you while tilting forward. Return to standing.
Side Step
This is one of my favorite exercises because it’s so simple, yet so effective. Holding a resistance band in both hands, place the tubing under your shoe. Make sure it’s sitting in the grooves of your sneaker so that it will stay put. The handles of the band should be about hip level, however the higher you hold them, the harder the exercise will be. Keeping your foot about an inch off the ground, step as far as you can out to one side, pushing against the band. Slowly bring the other foot to meet your first foot. The key to this exercise is to control the band on the way back. Keep it slow. After a few repetitions you should start to feel fatigue in your outer thigh.
Axe Chop
This is a great total body exercise: You will be working your glutes, legs, abdominals and arms! Starting with your feet shoulder-width apart reach a medicine ball or dumbbell over your head to one side. Moving down through your body, lower the ball to the opposite side of your body by your knees, then raise it back above your head to starting position. Be safe: Make sure you are pivoting your feet with the movement. Don’t keep your heels glued to the ground, because doing so may cause unnecessary stress on your knees.
Ball Curl-In
The Ball Curl-In will work your hamstring, lower back and abdominals. Lying on your back with a stability ball under your feet, slowly lift your hips so only your head, neck and shoulders are touching the ground. Once you are balanced, curl the ball in towards your glutes with your heels. Extend back out to starting position. To modify it for greater ease, just hold the ball in starting position for 30-60 seconds until your balance is stable enough to add in a curl.

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