By Maria Bajo, Top Fitness Instructor, Lifestyle and Health Adviser.
During the colder months most of us feel more comfortable in long trousers, with our legs covered up and not showing any signs that we’ve lost some of the tone in our legs.
But don’t worry, if you’re willing to stay motivated and tone-up, there are many effective exercises to build up the muscles in your legs ready for summer so that you feel more comfortable and confident showing off your toned legs in skirts and bikinis.
It’s essential to understand that everyone’s body responds differently to exercise, and that if you have excess fat covering your thighs, you won’t see results until you reduce the fat; it’s safest to do this gradually at a rate of about two pounds (1-2 kg) per week.
There are many toning exercises to choose from, but here are the key moves which will target your legs, thighs, calves and glutes.
These exercises can be built into your weekly exercise routine in a group cardio or circuit exercise class, or into a one-to-one session with your personal trainer. You could also do this at home or on the gym floor.
There is always a way to include some toning during the week.
- Step/stair exercise – Some gyms have a specific stair or stepping machine but as an expert, my advice would be to use every opportunity during the day to get your legs working, for example in the office building use the stairs instead of the lift, you could even walk on escalators.
If you want a fun way to cheer up your day sign up for a step or circuit class at your local gym. Working out in a group makes you more motivated.
- Squat exercises are one of the most commonly known exercises for lower body toning. There are many varieties of squat but the easiest and simplest method is to get down to the sitting position and stand up again, for at least 10 minutes at home whilst watching your favourite TV program or listening to music. It will hurt to begin with, but it will get easier.
You can also add weights to your shoulders for a more challenging leg workout.
Squats are a must do exercise in any body conditioning and circuit class, and taking part in group exercise can make the training much more fun.
- Lunges are one of the most popular exercises to help you achieve your leg goals. This functional, multi-joint exercise can be modified to meet your fitness level. Whether you’re doing basic beginner lunges or taking on a more advanced variety, such as lunges with your foot elevated to the rear, this exercise is beneficial in more ways than one. According to the American Council on Exercise, lunges are one of the most effective lower-body exercises and are right up there with squats, step-ups, and quadruped and four-way hip extensions. They effectively work your bum and quadriceps whilst also engaging your hamstrings.
Strengthening these large muscle groups can speed up your metabolism, which is beneficial if you’re trying to lose weight. When excess fat is reduced from your lower body, lunges can help you shape, tone and firm up your tush and your legs.
- Cycling – We all know that cycling is a fantastic exercise, benefiting both your overall health and fitness. As an endurance sport, cycling can be exceptionally good for cardiovascular fitness whilst also helping with weight loss.
The truth is, cycling is an excellent alternative to the gym. However, if you don’t feel comfortable riding outside, use a stationary bike or take a spinning class. The muscles in your legs that are involved in this exercise include your quadriceps muscles (front of thighs), hamstrings (rear of thighs), calf muscles, hip flexors, and gluteus maximus (your butt).
In my personal opinion, cycling is one of the best way to keep you fit and tone your legs. Be sure to take any opportunity to go outdoors and cycle to work.
- Calf raises – There are lots of different ways to be doing this as well. You can stand in a machine, sit on a machine, stand on a step and just do one leg with your body weight while holding a railing, or do that last one with a dumbbell in the other hand for added weight. They’re all good.
Remember to also exercise your patience, results will appear over time with regular training. To find out more, visit my website at: http://msfitnesslondon.squarespace.com