Slim, toned legs might be this year's must-have accessory, but skinny legs are a big no-no. It doesn't matter how much you spend on a designer dress, nothing will make twig legs look good.The key to awesome legs is to build muscle and develop full, rounded quads, hamstrings and calves while burning off all your lower-body fat. Make your way towards perfect pins with a tough weights-based leg workout at the gym performed twice a week, along with cardio and a carefully planned diet.
Hold a dumbbell in both hands and stand with your feet spaced hip-width apart. This is your starting position.
Take a step backwards with your right leg and plant the ball of your foot firmly on the ground.
Bend both knees until your right knee is just above the floor and your right shin is vertical.
Push forward forcefully with your right leg and bring it forward and back to the starting position. Repeat the exercise on your left side and complete three sets of eight reps on each leg. Reverse lunges are far more suited to women than forward lunges, claims personal trainer John Romaniello, as they work your glutes and hamstrings more, meaning you develop fuller legs without massive quadriceps.
Stand with the toes of one foot on the edge of an aerobic step or on the bottom step of a set of stairs. Cross the other foot behind it.
Hold a dumbbell in one hand and use your other hand to steady yourself by placing it against a wall.
Drop your heel down towards the floor until you feel a big stretch in your calf, pause briefly then push back up so you're standing on tiptoe.
Perform 15 reps on one side, then switch legs and move the dumbbell to the other hand. Perform another 15 reps. Do this four times with no rest between legs.
Place your feet firmly on the ground, slightly wider than shoulder-width apart with your knees and toes turned out just a touch.
Squat down by imagining you're sitting onto a chair behind you. Stick your butt out and push your knees out to the sides. Go as low as you can while maintaining an upright torso. Then, stand back up again.
Set a timer for five minutes and complete as many body-weight squats as you can. Rest when you need to and aim to beat your total number of squats each session.
Watch your calorie intake. To lose fat you need to burn more calories than you consume -- you can't spot reduce fat simply by training your legs, you must also create a calorie deficit. To get the look you want requires weight training and a calorie-controlled diet. Active women need 2,000 to 2,400 calories per day, so start with these guidelines and adjust accordingly. If your legs are looking fuller and leaner each week, keep doing what you're doing. If you feel you aren't making progress, lower your daily calorie intake.
Bump up your protein. Protein's main role is to build and repair muscle mass and it helps to keep you feeling fuller, so you eat fewer calories overall. Have a serving of protein from lean meats or fish, low-fat dairy products, eggs or beans in each meal.
Consume most of your carbs around your workout times. You need carbohydrates for energy and recovery, so it makes sense to eat the majority of them before and after workouts. Have a serving of brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread, sweet potato or fruit before training and another afterwards.
- Perform the leg workout on non-consecutive days. Always attempt to lift heavier dumbbells or perform extra reps on each exercise in every workout.
- Add in one upper-body strength session as well as 75 to 150 minutes of cardiovascular training such as running, swimming or cycling each week to maintain your fitness levels and help prevent fat gain.
- Consult your health care provider before switching your workout routine or changing your diet.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.