Creating shapely legs requires performing workouts that reduce fat and build muscle. So-called muscle-toning exercises are actually resistance exercises that build new muscle. Depending on the amount of body fat you have, you might need to add cardio to your workouts. Your personal needs will dictate the amount of weight you use and repetitions of each exercise you perform, with less weight and more reps a common toning formula for many women.
What is Toning?
Laypeople refer to toning as getting rid of flabby, wobbly muscles, particularly under the arms, around the midsection and on the legs. In actuality, your muscles aren’t the problem – the loose skin you see contains fat, which you must eliminate and replace with more muscle to get that lean look. You can create separate fat-burning and muscle-building workouts, or do both at the same time, using less weight and more reps. In any case, you can’t spot-burn fat, so a full-body cardio workout with targeted resistance exercises is your best bet for a more sexy shape.
If you don’t need to burn much fat and primarily want to build muscle, you have two options. Using as much weight as you can lift five times without needing a break, perform three to five sets of an exercise, with each set consisting of five repetitions of the exercise. Another option is to use at least 60 percent of the maximum weight you can lift to perform eight to 12 reps of an exercise. If you want to combine cardio and resistance, start your workout with low-resistance cardio and spend the last 15 minutes using weights or resistance bands. Don’t worry about bulking up if you’re a female – based on a woman’s physiology, you would need to perform frequent workouts with heavy weights to build thunder thighs. Any time you feel a targeted muscle is the size you want it, simply stop performing those exercises that target that muscle.
In addition to performing a specific number of reps for toning exercises, you can perform reps for a specific time. For example, using an amount of weight that will fatigue you to failure within 90 seconds if you don’t stop, perform reps for 30, 60 or 90 seconds to tone. Perform reps in this way to create a circuit-training workout, performing your timed sets one after the other with short breaks in between.
To target your muscles, perform squats, jump squats, box jumps, rear and forward lunges, leg presses, deadlifts, heel raises and running or walking stairs two at a time. Use resistance bands to firm your inner and outer thighs with adduction and abduction exercises that move your legs out to the side of your body against the cords. Perform exercises slowly, pausing in between moving up and down, if your goal is maximum muscle building. If you want to combine fat burning and muscle building, perform the exercises more quickly to prevent muscle fatigue that might shorten your workout.
Sam Ashe-Edmunds has been writing and lecturing for decades. He has worked in the corporate and nonprofit arenas as a C-Suite executive, serving on several nonprofit boards. He is an internationally traveled sport science writer and lecturer. He has been published in print publications such as Entrepreneur, Tennis, SI for Kids, Chicago Tribune, Sacramento Bee, and on websites such Smart-Healthy-Living.net, SmartyCents and Youthletic. Edmunds has a bachelor's degree in journalism.