A long, lean pair of legs is the envy of most women. Commitment to a structured exercise program can help you slim your body overall and tone up your legs. Stretching exercises elongate muscles and increase flexibility, but won't trim fat from your legs. Consistent stretching will, however, relax tight, contracted leg muscles and make them appear leaner.
The quadriceps, the muscles on the front of the thigh, should be stretched after workouts to prevent muscle aches and potential injuries. Regular quads stretches will elongate the quads muscle and prevent excessive shortening, or contraction that can make your legs feel tight, heavy and even bulky. Do this exercise by standing up with your left knee bent up behind you. Grab your left ankle with your left hand and pull your foot up towards your butt as far as you comfortably can. Avoid leaning forward at the waist as this utilizes other muscles with less focus on the quads. Hold the stretch for approximately 20 to 30 seconds before switching sides to repeat on the right leg.
The muscles on the back of the thigh, the hamstrings, bend your knees and extend your hips. Stretch the hamstrings after a dynamic warmup of light jogging for injury prevention and the appearance of leaner legs. Do a hamstring stretch by sitting on a mat on the floor with both legs extended in front of you. Keep your back straight as you lean forward to reach for your shins or toes. You should feel a stretch in the back line of the legs including the hamstrings and calves. Hold this stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat two more times.
The calf muscles are prone to tightness from walking uphills, running, calf raises and other lower-body exercises. You may also naturally have thicker calf muscles as a result of genetics and your natural body shape. Although calf stretches won't necessarily make legs lean, they will lengthen the muscle, which can lead to looser calves and, over time, a leaner-appearing physique. Do a calf stretch by facing a wall with the left leg in front and the right leg extended behind you. Bend your left knee forward and lightly press your hands into the wall until you feel a stretch in your back leg. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat with the right leg in front to stretch the left leg.
Since you can't spot-reduce fat, you will need to lose weight all over to get leaner legs. Aim to do aerobic exercise three to five times per week for 30 to 60 minutes per session for fat loss. Schedule two to three strength training sessions targeting all the major muscle groups of the upper and lower body. Perform stretches after your workouts when your muscles have warmed up and are less prone to injury.
- That'sFit: Get Lean, Sexy Legs With These 6 Exercises
- Mayo Clinic: Fitness: Stretching: Focus On Flexibility
- Stretching Anatomy; Arnold Nelson & Joke Kikkonen; 2006
Jennifer Andrews specializes in writing about health, wellness and nutrition. Andrews has a Master of Science in physical therapy from the University of Alberta as well as a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. She teaches yoga and pilates and is a recent graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.