Do you remember Jessica Simpson’s shapely bottom as she paraded around Georgia in the 2005 film “The Dukes of Hazzard”? She prepared herself for those revealing Daisy Dukes with an intense diet and exercise program. One exercise she used was the prone kneeling leg extension. This exercise targets your back and abdominal muscles as well as your gluteus maximus -- the large muscle in your buttocks -- and your hamstrings -- the muscles that run down the backs of your thighs.
Kneel on the floor, with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Pull your belly button toward your spine to engage your abdominal muscles. Keep these muscles engaged throughout the exercise. These muscles help keep your back in a neutral position. If you notice your lower back arching -- or your stomach dropping toward the floor -- reengage your abdominal muscles.
Straighten your right leg behind you, with your toes touching the floor. Try to keep your hips and shoulders from moving. You’ll notice that your body tends to dip sideways when you straighten your right leg. Imagine a rubber band connecting your ribs to your hipbones on the right side of your body. This will help keep your hips from shifting.
Lift your right leg until it reaches the height of your hips. Your body should be in a straight line from your head, through your shoulders and back, all the way to the heel of your right foot.
Hold the position for three to five seconds before lowering your leg with control until your toes lightly touch the floor.
Do eight repetitions with your right leg. Then, switch legs. If you still have energy, do a second set. Gradually increase the number of repetitions until you can do three sets of 12 repetitions.
- Beginners might find it difficult to keep their abdominal muscles engaged. To make this important part of the exercise easier, do the exercise kneeling over a stability ball. The ball, positioned under your stomach, makes it easier to remember to keep your belly button pulled toward your spine.
- Once you’re comfortable with the basic version, you can make the exercise more challenging by adding an arm raise. After you’ve lifted your right leg to hip height, lift your left arm off the floor. Balance for three seconds before placing your arm, then your leg, back on the floor. You can also do this variation with your supporting knee on a half-ball. The unstable surface makes it more difficult to keep your balance. As you try to keep your body stable, your core muscles will get stronger.