It's not always easy to get lean, shapely legs if you're a woman, considering that women tend to carry excess fat in their hips and thighs. Doing cardio exercises along with targeted lower body resistance exercises can help you get the look you want. The split squat is a compound exercise that targets the front of your thighs for a lean look.
Performing a Split Squat
Start out doing the split squat with just your own body weight. Once you perfect your technique you can hold a set of dumbbells or even a barbell across your shoulders. Stand upright with your feet hip-width apart. Step your right foot back so that you are in a wide stance, about twice your shoulder width. Stay on the ball of your right foot and keep your left foot flat throughout the movement. Keeping your torso upright, bend both knees and lower your body to the floor. Stop when your right knee hovers over the floor and your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Push through your left foot to raise your body back up for one complete repetition.
The split squat targets your quadriceps, which are the prime movers in this exercise. The quads are actually a group of four muscles that run along the front of your thighs: Vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, vastus intermedius and rectus femoris. The rectus femoris lies on top of the others and crosses both your hip and knee joints. The other three begin on the femur and cross only the knee joint.
The split squat is a compound exercise for your legs. This means that you move more than one joint while performing it. Even though the quads are the target muscle and prime mover, you have other muscles that assist and get a workout as well. Your hamstrings, glutes and calves are all working during the split squat to help stabilize, or balance, your body so that you don't fall over.
Sets and Reps
Begin with one to three sets of eight to 12 reps of split squats with just your body weight. One set is eight to 12 reps on each leg. Once the split squat becomes easy using your body weight, add in some resistance. Hold a set of dumbbells or put a barbell across your shoulders. Start light and gradually increase the weight to avoid injury and overtraining. Perform the split squats two to three times per week on nonconsecutive days so the muscles can recover.
Bethany Kochan began writing professionally in 2010. She has worked in fitness as a group instructor, personal trainer and fitness specialist since 1998. Kochan graduated in 2000 from Southern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science. She is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Personal Trainer, Medical Exercise Specialist and certified YogaFit instructor.