Having sleek and shapely legs is a goal for many women, but the thighs and the butt are among the hardest areas to tone. Try step-ups, which are one of many effective exercises that can build and tone your leg muscles. However, if there is too much fat covering them, then no number of step-ups will remove the fat. With a variety of exercises, diet and cardiovascular activity, you can achieve those shapely legs you've been seeking.
Step-ups target most muscles of the upper leg, so they are one of the best exercises for toning the thighs. According to the American Council on Exercise, this exercise mainly targets the quadriceps, but the hamstrings and calves perform as active stabilizers. The glutes and the adductors act as assisting muscle groups. The adductors run down your inner thigh, and your quads and glutes influence the outer thighs; thus, this exercise is effective for those areas of the legs.
It is best to do step-ups with a standard weightlifting bench. ExRx.net recommends standing father away from the bench if you want to work your butt. Stand closer to the bench to focus on your quadriceps. Place your entire left foot on the bench and step up keeping your weight on your heel and your torso upright. If your balance is good enough, leave your right leg elevated behind you and reach back with it to step down. If you need to stabilize yourself more, place your right foot on the bench next to the left foot before stepping back down.
Many women believe that if they lift heavy weights, they will build a ton of muscle and look too manly. This is not the case because women do not have the hormones to build muscle to that extreme. However, to get the results you want, which are tight and toned thighs, you should challenge yourself with weights. The National Strength and Conditioning Association recommends lifting a weight that will completely fatigue your muscles in 12 to 15 repetitions. Do three sets with this number of reps in each set. Hold dumbbells, or place a barbell over your shoulders, while you complete your step-ups.
For best results, work your legs twice per week on non-consecutive days. In addition to step-ups, incorporate a wide variety of leg exercises that target multiple muscle groups. These could include squats, lunges and deadlifts. High-intensity interval training very effectively burns fat and preserves muscle. This could include max-effort sprints on the track, treadmill or stationary bike. Sprint for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds. Interval train three times per week for about 15 to 20 minutes.
- “Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning”; National Strength and Conditioning Association; Baechel, Thomas R. and Earle, Roger W; 2008
- The American Council on Exercise: Upper Leg Exercises
- ExRx.net: Dumbbell Step-Up
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
Riana Rohmann has been working for the Marine Corps doing physical training and writing fitness articles since 2008. She holds personal trainer and advanced health and fitness specialist certifications from the American Council on Exercise and a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology and exercise physiology from California State University-San Marcos.