When you're moving your body against gravity, you're using your own bodyweight to create resistance and strengthen and tone your muscles. By doing a few different types of leg lifting exercises -- known also as "leg elevation" exercises -- you can help tone the butt, hips, legs and abdominals. Having an exercise ball will help you do more of these exercises.The best part is, you can do these exercises even while you're catching up on your favorite TV drama.
Elevating your legs up and over your torso is an effective way to work the abdominal muscles. Find a horizontal bar that is about waist-high, or simply position your exercise ball near your kitchen countertop. Position the ball in front of the bar and then sit on the ball and lean backward. Grab onto the bar so that your palms are facing upward, and then allow your legs to straighten and your heels to rest on the floor. Then pull your legs upward, bending your knees as they come up and over your torso. Stop lifting your legs when your knees are just over your chest. Try 10 repetitions of this exercise -- it's pretty tough on the abs.
The leg elevation exercise that works the hips is probably the one you've seen done most often. The common way to do leg elevations is to lie on your side with your legs straight, your head resting on the lower hand, and then to lift one leg about 1 foot up and away from the other leg. Don't lift the leg too high -- it doesn't improve the exercise. Another option is to use a resistance band and to do the leg lift standing up. Place the resistance band around both ankles, hold onto a chair or other stable furniture, and then lift the outside leg to the side about 45 degrees.
Get into an all-fours position to do a leg elevation exercise that will help tone the gluteus maximus -- better known as the butt. Look down to ensure that your hands are directly under your shoulders and your knees are just under your hips. Lift one leg upward, keeping its knee bent and foot flexed as you elevate it high enough to make the back of its thigh parallel with your back. Tighten your abs as you lower the leg back down, repeating the motion 10 to 12 times on one side, and then continuing with the other leg.
Another way to work the butt and thighs -- as well as the abs -- is to get out your exercise ball once again, and to do "glute bridges." Lie on the floor and place your feet on the top of the exercise ball, placing your arms on the floor for stability. Tighten your abs and raise your hips and lower back off the floor, creating a long straight line between your feet and shoulders. This is a good workout in itself that will work the abs, butt, back and hips, but to make it even harder, elevate one leg at a time. Lift one leg off the ball about 1 foot and hold it in the air for a few seconds, then lower it back down and lift the other leg in the same manner.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.