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Toning Up Your Legs

Fitness for mind and body.

Toning up your legs and strengthening them is easy with this simple approach.

It is never too late in life to tone up your legs. To make your body change, you have to stress it. Beginners should start out with only floor exercises and gradually advance their workouts. After doing floor exercises for a time, you will want to add weights to your training and begin to do stand-up exercises.

The standing, weight-bearing exercises are more difficult because you are using gravity and balancing. This forces you to stabilize your torso. In addition, it is important to note when doing weight-bearing exercises, leave at least one day between exercise sessions. This gives the muscle tissue a chance to recover.

Tone up your legs with squats Squats and lunges are the two best exercises for the legs. They work every part of the leg. You can do lunges by stepping either backward or forward -- or both! Some feel stepping backward allows one to keep better form. Do whichever feels most comfortable to you.

Other great exercises for legs are step-ups. For the step-up, you step up onto a platform while holding weights. Step-ups work the quadriceps, the front of the thigh and gluteus maximus (the butt). Flexibility exercises are also excellent for the legs. They give the leg muscle a nicer looking line. After you have finished a leg workout or between exercises, do a stretching exercise. In addition, yoga is fantastic for stretching and gently strengthening the muscles.

To keep results coming, one needs to vary their exercises every three to four weeks to stimulate the exerciser mentally and give them a boost physically. Such changes could include switching to a new exercise or using more weight and fewer repetitions.

For beginners, start with non-weight-bearing exercises on the floor such as leg raises on the floor. Do four to six different exercises, two sets of each exercise and 10 to 12 repetitions per set. You may then progress to weight-bearing exercises standing up. When you are more advanced, do five to ten exercises, three to five sets of each exercise and 12 to 20 repetitions. As you gain strength, you can add more weight.

The following exercises are ideal for both beginners and veterans. Simply adapt the workout to your needs. Perform each exercise the appropriate number of reps for desired effect without rests. After the lunge, sissy squat and lying adductor raise exercises are complete, rest 30 seconds. Repeat the supersets two more times with a 30-second rest between.

The Lunge

Begin by grasping two dumbbells and allow them to hang down by your sides. Take a long stride forward with your right leg and raise your left heel so your left foot is on its toes. Keeping your shoulders back and chin up, slowly lower your body by flexing your right knee and hip, continuing your descent until your left knee is almost in contact with the floor. Reverse direction by forcibly extending the right hip and knee until you return to the start position. After performing the desired number of reps, repeat the process on your left leg.

Sissy Squat

Lunge exercise Begin by taking a shoulder-width stance. Grasp an incline bench with one hand and rise onto your toes. In one motion, slowly slant your torso back, bend your knees and lower your body downward. Thrust your knees forward as you descend and lean back until your torso is almost parallel with the floor. Then, reverse direction and rise upward until you reach the starting position.

Lying Adductor Raise

Begin by lying down on your right side. Bring your left leg over your right leg, keeping it bent at a 90-degree angle with your left foot planted firmly on the floor. Keeping your right leg straight, slowly raise it as high as possible. Contract your inner thigh and return to the start position. After finishing the desired number of repetitions, turn over and repeat the process on your left. For added intensity, strap on ankle weights.

For Leg-Cramp Sufferers

If you suffer a leg cramp while working out, straighten your leg, point your toes upward and gently massage the cramped muscle. When you can, put weight on your leg and bend your knee slightly. Relax the muscle by applying a cold pack. Use heat later if you feel pain or tenderness. This could also indicate a deficiency of calcium and magnesium in your diet.

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