As the weather heats up and pants are traded for shorts, there’s good reason to start thinking about your legs. They carry you everywhere you go, so it’s important to work the lower limbs in new ways.
Jason Mundy, fitness manager at The Sports Club/LA in New York City, offers these five moves for your legs before showing them off.
1. Ball Squat
Position a stability ball against the wall with your back against the ball and feet shoulder width apart and slightly out in front of your knees. The ball should be just above your belt line with your lower back flush against the ball. Keeping the pelvis tucked in, lower down into a squat, with legs at 90 degrees. Make sure your knees do not go past your toes. Return to the starting position, repeat 10 to 12 times.
Don’t have a stability ball? This move can also be done with the back against the wall.
Need a challenge? Set feet slightly wider than hip width, toes turned out. When in the squat position, go up onto your toes and hold for two seconds. Lower and return to start.
2. Ball Curl
Lie on the floor with the arms out to the sides like a T, lower calves resting on a stability ball. Legs should be slightly apart with toes pointing straight up. Pull the ball in until your legs are in a 90-degree angle, making sure the hips are in line with the legs. Hold for two seconds and return to start. Repeat 10 to 12 times.
Don’t have a ball? Try this with a chair on wheels in place of the ball.
Need a challenge? Move the ball out so only the feet are resting on the ball in the start position, or move the arms closer to your sides.
3. Ball Bridge
Begin lying on a stability ball, resting your shoulder, head and neck on the ball. Legs are shoulder width apart and out in a tabletop position, with knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Lower the hips slowly, about six inches and hold for two seconds. Return to start. Repeat 10 to 12 times.
Don’t have a stability ball? Try this move resting on an ottoman or other low, cushioned piece of furniture. Need a challenge? Try squeezing a small ball between your knees as you do this move.
4. One Leg Squat
Standing with legs hip width apart, raise the right foot a few inches off the ground with left leg slightly bent. Sit back as you bend into a squat while reaching forward. It is helpful to have an object on the ground, such as a roll of paper towels, to reach towards. Makes sure the hip stays level and aligned over the knee. Return back to starting position and repeat on other side. Repeat entire move 10 to 12 times.
Need a challenge? Try holding weights while doing this move.
5. Multi-planar Lunge
This lunge is actually three lunges in one. It is important to master each lunge separately before trying them all together.
Front Lunge — Begin with a traditional lunge. Standing with hands on hips, legs together, step forward with the left leg and bend the leg until it is in a 90-degree angle. Make sure the knee does not extend past the toes. Keep the upper body straight. Return to start and repeat with other leg. Repeat 10 to 12 times if doing this lunge in isolation.
Side Lunge — The next step is a side lunge. Standing in the same starting position, hands on hips and legs together, step out to the side with your left leg, keeping feet parallel. Bend at the hips towards your left leg, making sure the torso remains upright and hips are facing front. Return to start position and repeat with other leg. Repeat 10 to 12 times if doing this lunge in isolation.
Turning Lunge — Standing in the same starting position, step 45 degrees to the side with the left foot. Pivot the right foot as you slowly lower into a lunge, with the left leg bent to 90 degrees. Make sure the torso remains upright. Come out of the lunge and pivot back towards starting position. Repeat move on other side. Repeat 6 to 8 times.
For the multi-planar lunge, start with the front lunge on the left side, and then progress to the side lunge and then the turning lunge with the same leg. Repeat entire series with the opposite leg. Repeat 6 to 8 times.
These exercises are most effective when added to a complete regimen of strength training and cardiovascular. There is no way to reduce fat in just one spot — there has to be a whole body approach. “Everyone chews gum, but that doesn’t make anyone’s chin skinnier,” Mundy said.
To get great thighs, you have to mix in activities such as jump roping, cycling or using an elliptical trainer, Mundy said. He also recommended adding intervals — of either sprints or inclines — to any cardio routine for maximum results. No matter what the exercise, the results will only come if it’s something you can stick to.