Toning up your legs can feel like a never-ending battle. From your buttocks down to your calves, you have several muscles that need to be worked to get glorious gams that are strong and great to look at. Various exercises target these muscles, so perform moves for every muscle to get a pair of stems to envy.
Your buttocks are made up of several gluteus muscles, which help you move your hips through a variety of movements. Your gluteus maximus is responsible for giving your butt its shape. The most effective exercise to target this muscle is the side-lying hip adduction. To work your gluteus medius, try single-leg squats or deadlifts. To do a single-leg squat, balance on your right leg with your left leg extended in front of your body as far as possible. Extend your arms out in front of your body. Slowly bend your right knee and squat down while keeping your left leg off the floor. Lower until your right knee is nearly completely bent or your left foot touches the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Compared to the guys, you need to give your hamstrings, or the muscle running along the back of your thigh, a little extra love, according to the “International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance." Women are less able to activate their hamstrings and therefore should focus on strengthening this muscle more than their quads. To target your hamstrings, try the leg curl. Grab a stability ball and lie on the floor face up with your lower legs placed on the top of the ball. Extend your arms out to your sides. Lift your hips off the floor to create a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Engage your core, bend your knees and use your heels to pull the ball toward your buttocks. Your feet will roll up onto the top of the ball. Return to the starting position and repeat.
The squat is a killer move to tone your quadriceps, or the muscle lying on the front of your thighs. Yet, not all squats are the same. Certain squats are designed to emphasize your quadriceps more than others, such as the front squat, sissy squat and hack squat. To perform the sissy squat, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. With one hand, grab onto a wall or bar at hip level for support. With your other hand, hold a weight against your chest. Keeping your hips and waist straight, bend at your knees letting your torso fall backwards and your knees come forward. Maintain a straight line from your knees to your chest. Your heels will lift off the floor. Lower until your knees are nearly fully flexed, return to the starting position and repeat.
Nothing accents a pair of heels better than a set of toned calf muscles. Your calves, located on the back of your lower legs, are composed of two muscles: your gastrocnemius and soleus. Your gastrocnemius is responsible for the shape of your calves. To effectively target both of these muscles at the same time, do a calf raise. Increase the intensity by performing single leg calf raises or by holding a pair of dumbbells in your hands.
- International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance: Hamstring Activation During Lower Body Resistance Training Exercises
- ExRx.net: Leg Curl
- Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy: Gluteal Muscle Activation During Common Therapeutic Exercises
- ExRx.net: Single Leg Squat
- ExRx.net: Squat Analysis
- ExRx.net: Sissy Squat
- ExRx.net: Calves
Fitzalan Gorman has more than 10 years of academic and commercial experience in research and writing. She has written speeches and text for CEOs, company presidents and leaders of major nonprofit organizations. Gorman has published for professional cycling teams and various health and fitness websites. She has a Master of Arts from Virginia Tech in political science and is a NASM certified personal trainer.