If leaner legs are on your wish list, count on smarter eating habits and regular exercise to help you banish unwanted fat. However, there's no way to spot-reduce fat with squats and lunges. Instead, these awesome strength-training moves will tone your legs and buttocks for shapelier gams. Plus, as you build more muscle, your metabolism will increase, allowing you to burn more calories even while at rest.
Perform 12 squats in a row. Stand with your feet just wider than your hips and your back straight. Bend your hips and knees at the same time to lower yourself slowly down until your thighs are parallel the floor. Your heels should bear most of your weight and your feet should remain still. Hold this position for a second or two and then push down on your heels and lift your upper body back up to complete the rep. These moves blast your calves, thighs and glutes. Prepare for sore muscles if you haven't done them before. As you grow stronger, work up to three sets of squats.
Perform 12 lunges on each leg. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips. Step forward with your right foot, bending both knees until your left leg is a few inches from the floor behind you and both knees are at 45-degree angles. Hold this position for one or two seconds, push back up using your forward leg and repeat, starting with the left foot in front of you. Work up to three sets. Lunges are killer for your legs and rear, especially when combined with squats. But don't fear. The soreness will fade.
Perform cardio 30 to 60 minutes per day, five days a week. No exercise torches calories quite like cardio, so it's more effective than doing only squats or lunges for immediate fat loss all over your body. Shred the fat with vigorous exercise like running, which burns more than 600 calories per hour at 5 mph for someone who weighs 160 pounds. Taking a high-impact aerobics class burns about 535 calories per hour at the same weight, while swimming laps burns about 425 calories per hour. If you're new to cardio, start with brisk walking or another moderate activity and slowly incorporate vigorous exercise into your routine.
Eat 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day. This amount is optimal for women's weight loss, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. You still get enough to eat while burning more calories. Make life easier -- and healthier -- by choosing whole, high-fiber fare instead of white breads and sugar. Fiber adds bulk and slows digestion so you feel satisfied on fewer calories. Make fruits and vegetables your staples and choose whole grains such as brown rice and oatmeal as well as lean proteins such as seafood and nonfat yogurt.
- For greater challenge, hold a dumbbell in each hand while performing squats and lunges.
- See your doctor before starting a weight-loss plan.
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.