Not everyone can be a bodybuilder -- and just thinking of the endless hours bodybuilders spend in the gym may make you want to reach for a martini instead of a set of weights. But don't worry, you don't have to devote your life to the gods of fitness to get some seriously solid legs. If your sights are set on getting rock-hard thighs, you'll need to focus on exercises that work the quadriceps -- the four muscles of the thighs -- as well as the hamstrings at the back and hip adductors and abductors along the sides of the upper legs.
Incorporate strength training into your routine, but focus on quality, not quantity. One really strong set of lifting weights is going to be just as beneficial -- if not more beneficial -- as endless reps with a lighter weight, advises MayoClinic.com. When you're doing leg-strengthening exercises such as the leg press, hamstring curl, deadlift or quad extension, pick a challenging amount of weight. At the end of the set, you should feel exhausted to the point of almost not being able to finish it -- meaning the last couple reps will be really hard to do. As you get stronger, it's OK to add another set or two, just so long as each set is pushing you and feels tough to complete.
Look for ways to do other thigh-strengthening exercises throughout the day. Squats and lunges are effective body-weight exercises you can do almost anywhere. Do a few deep squats -- deeper is always better for the quads -- while you're on an elevator. Take the stairs and dip into a low lunge as you climb. Hold a pair of dumbbells and do a set of both squats and lunges in front of the TV. While you're at it, get an exercise ball to help you focus on strengthening the core, doing exercises such as the plank and incline pushups. Your legs need a solid foundation to rest upon -- which means having a strong core, advises "Runner's World."
Vary your routine. If you're doing the same thigh-strengthening exercises all the time, your muscles will become adapted and you may find yourself hitting a plateau after a while. To avoid that, mix up your exercises every few weeks. Use a resource such as ExRx.net to find new leg exercises, or work with a personal trainer who may have new tricks up her sleeve.
Perform cardio workouts that are leg focused. Strength training is great, but for your health you should also be doing cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart pumping. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a minimum of 150 minutes per week of moderate cardio, or 75 minutes of intense cardio each week. Tune up your bicycle and start hitting the hills. Go to the pool and swim laps with the help of a kickboard that will help you isolate your legs. Try a stair stepper, and focus on deep, long strides, or find a set of long outdoor stairs and incorporate them into your jogging routine.
Build muscle by feeding your body what it needs to do so. Different people of different sizes have differing requirements, but the average person needs about 0.8 to 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, and athletes need about 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram -- with 1 kilogram equaling 2.2 pounds, according to the American Council on Exercise. Get your sources through lean meats, eggs, nuts and fish, and consider adding a protein shake containing whey or soy to get even more protein in your diet.
- You may be ready to bust out of the gates and hit the weights on a daily basis -- but slow down, your muscles need time to rest. Take at least 24 hours rest in between thigh workouts to allow your muscles the time they need to regenerate new muscle tissue.
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