Lower Body resistance training improves the strength and tone of all the leg muscles, but for women, specific exercises are more beneficial than others. While any exercise is better than none, there are specific types of squats and lunges that benefit a woman's musculature more than others. Sumo squats, exercise ball squats, reverse lunges and curtsey lunges are some of the best squats and lunges for women.
Sumo squats focus on the hip adductor and abductor muscles, or the inner and outer thigh muscles, and thus are great for women. Women have a wider hip angle than men, and training with a wide stance is important for women. To do a sumo squat, stand with your feet twice as wide as your hip width and your feet slightly turned out. Keep your posture tall and sit your hips back as if sitting into a chair. Lower until your knees bend 90 degrees and then stand back up. Repeat 15 times. Hold a kettlebell in your hands at chest level if you need more of a challenge.
Exercise Ball Squats
Exercise ball squats are great for women because they help reinforce posture while improving leg strength. Often women are carrying something, such as a child, and need to bend and squat down. Exercise ball squats force good posture while squatting to help combat the poor posture that may occur in other parts of life. Stand with an exercise ball between your mid-back and a wall, and your feet slightly in front of your body. Lean against the ball as you squat down until your knees bend 90 degrees, then stand back up. Make sure to maintain good posture; repeat 15 times.
If you are going to do any lunge, make it a reverse lunge, as this type of lunge benefits women for a few reasons. Similar to the exercise ball squat, a reverse lunge forces you to move with tall posture. Also, many women experience knee pain as they age. A reverse lunge helps to increase leg muscle strength while putting minimal force on the knee. To do a reverse lunge from a standing position, simply step one leg behind you, place the toes on the floor, and bend down until both knees are bent 90 degrees. Push back to standing, and repeat with the other leg. Try 10 on each leg, focusing on good posture.
The curtsey lunge increases hip and glute strength significantly and can help women fend off future hip problems. To do a curtsey lunge, stand with feet hip-width apart, and then step one foot back and across, behind the other foot, as if doing a curtsey. Bend down until the back knee nearly touches the ground, and then stand back up. Repeat 10 times on each leg. Focus on keeping your body straight and not letting the rear foot or front knee rotate out to the side. If done right, you will feel your hips and glutes working.
Scotty Brunning is a Chicago-based health and fitness writer. Having worked with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cooper Fitness Center in Dallas, he has a plethora of fitness experience. He is an ACSM-certified health fitness specialist and a Cooper Institute master fitness specialist. Brunning holds a master's degree in health and fitness.