If you want to garner attention in tiny shorts, mini skirts and tight jeans, shapely legs are a critical part of the look. While aerobic exercise can help to burn fat off of your legs, if you're hoping for defined calves and tight thighs, you'll need to do exercises that build muscle and strength. A leg-centered workout routine doesn't have to be complicated. Just pick one exercise that works each major muscle group in the legs and you'll soon begin to see results. If you're new to exercise or have injuries, consult your doctor before beginning a workout routine.
There is some debate among fitness experts about the benefit of static stretching -- stretches that require you to hold one position -- prior to working out. If you stretch before you work out, warm up your muscles briefly by getting active, such as by walking or cycling for a few minutes. To stretch, sit down with your legs extended straight and your toes pointed toward the ceiling. Bend over to touch your toes and hold for five to 10 seconds. Stretch your hamstrings by lying down at the corner of a wall. The wall corner should be positioned approximately at your hips. Keep one leg extended straight and lift the other leg up to the corner, then push the leg against the corner until you feel a stretch. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat with the other leg. To stretch your quadriceps, sit on the ground with your legs separated to form a "V." Bend your torso over one leg to reach for your toes, then perform the same exercise on the other side. Hold for 30 seconds on each side.
Your calves are made up of the gastrocenemius and soleus muscles, both of which enable you to flex and bend your foot. To work these muscles, try a basic calf raise. Stand up straight and use a bookshelf or other sturdy piece of furniture for support, but don't lean. Slowly flex your calf muscles and elevate your heels off of the ground to balance on the balls of your feet. Hold for five seconds and lower; do 10 reps. You can also work your calves using any jumping-based activity such as box jumps, during which you jump onto a box or exercise platform using both feet.
The hamstring muscles of the thighs work to move your hip and knee joints, and many exercises that bend either of these joints work these muscles. Try a bridge exercise, which moves both your hips and knees. Lie on the ground on your back with your feet flat and knees bent. With your hands flat on the ground and your abs engaged, slowly lift your rear off of the ground and hold for 10 seconds, then lower it back down. Do five to 10 reps. Next, try a resistance band curl. Lie face down with a resistance band wrapped around one ankle. Hold either end of the band with your hands. Extend your legs straight out, then slowly lift the leg with the band while bending your knee. Do 10 reps and then repeat with the other leg.
Your quadriceps are muscles located on the front of the thigh that help to extend the knee. Any exercise that moves your knee from a bent to an extended position will work these muscles. Try doing a basic lunge. Take a step forward with your right foot so your right foot is about 3 feet in front of your left foot. Then slowly lower your torso to the ground, bending both knees. Your left knee should almost touch the ground and your right knee should be at a 90-degree angle with your foot flat on the ground. Hold for five seconds and return to the starting position; repeat five times with each leg. Next, do a squat. While standing straight, lower your rear as if you are going to sit in a chair. Continue lowering until your knees are completely bent, and keep your torso as straight as possible. Hold for five seconds, then repeat 10 times.
- PhysioAdvisor.com: Hamstring Strengthening Exercises
- American Council on Exercise: Lower Leg Exercises
- MayoClinic.com: Slide Show: A Guide to 10 Basic Stretches
- American Council on Exercise: Upper Leg Exercises
- Stretching Anatomy; Arnold G. Nelson et al.
- MayoClinic.com: Stretching: Focus on Flexibility
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.